Texas Rangers open second half against their Wild Card partner
By Travis Koch
Riding a 5-game winning streak, the Texas Rangers will take on the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at Tropicana Field. Each team currently holds an AL Wild Card spot.
If the season ended after 81 games, the Texas Rangers would be in the playoffs with a Wild Card berth. It doesn’t, but it’s still pretty cool that they’re being chased rather than chasing at the halfway point. No one saw that coming. It just so happens that they’ll open the second half against the other American League Wild Card squad, the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rangers have 27 series left to play in 2019, so the upcoming one vs. Tampa Bay is far from season-altering. However, it is a chance for them to size up a team that’s likely going to stay in the thick of things through September.
The Rays have fallen back some since their scorching start to the season. Losers in seven of their last ten games, Tampa has gone from division contender to Wild Card contender. They’ve watched the Yankees separate and the Red Sox make up ground.
Texas has been consistent for much of the year, though they’ve experienced a nice uptick of late, victorious in seven of their last ten and currently on a five-game winning streak. The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels are playing good ball behind them; all three teams have crept up on the sliding Houston Astros. The Rangers are just 4.5 games behind the Astros in the AL West.
So yes, for the sake of staying on the Astros’ heels and maintaining momentum as the All-Star break approaches, Texas could greatly benefit from a series win over Tampa Bay.
Game 1: Lance Lynn (9-4 with a 4.32 ERA) vs. Yonny Chirinos (7-3 with a 3.00 ERA)
Game 2: Adrian Sampson (6-4 with a 4.14 ERA) vs. Brendan McKay (major league debut; 4th overall pick in the 2017 draft)
Game 3: Starters unknown, though Jesse Chavez is likely to get the nod for the Rangers
The series will start with a couple of pleasant surprises taking the mound. Lynn was never considered a slouch, but to be tied for the second most wins in the league half way through… more power to him. Lynn sports a better ERA on the road than at home, and the Texas offense has averaged six runs per game when he throws the first pitch for the team.
The Rays used Chirinos as an opener and reliever for most of the 2018 season, though he’s solidified himself as a traditional starter in 2019. His 3.00 ERA is second best among qualified Rays’ starters, behind Charlie Morton. Chirinos will enter the game with a consecutive quality start streak of four games. Of course, Lance Lynn had an eight-game quality start streak up until his last outing.
It should be noted that the Rays played an 18 inning game with the Minnesota Twins yesterday. They used nine pitchers. That bodes well for the Texas Rangers if their offense can get to the starting pitchers early, something they’ve done an outstanding job of thus far this season.
Players to watch
Elvis Andrus has recorded two hits in each of his last four games. He is sitting comfortably in the third spot in the lineup, protected by Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo. Also, he is a career .336 hitter at Tropicana Field.
Joey Gallo is a player to watch no matter who he’s facing. He hit two home runs yesterday afternoon against the Tigers. One was pulled down the right field line and one was driven to left center field. Gallo apparently hasn’t lost a beat after missing a few weeks because of an oblique strain. He could have some fun at an indoor, hitter-friendly ballpark. The only thing that could get in his way are the catwalks.