At one point during the MLB regular season, it looked as if the Rangers and Rays were on a crash course to meet each other in the ALCS, yet today, they will meet in Tampa Bay for game one of the AL Wild Card series. After neither team was able to win their division, they are now just two games away from elimination, and we’ll preview tonight’s game before going over my play on the total.
Both Texas and Tampa Bay rounded out their regular seasons by going 6-4 over their last ten games, but while that may seem like they are entering tonight on the same level, that is not the case. Despite all of their injury woes, the Rays offense will still be entering this series on a high note, as they scored four or more runs in eight of their last ten games.
In their final regular season series, Tampa Bay scored 23 runs in three games, which should give some hope that the team will not be held to just one run in the series and bounced after two games like they were last season. It also helps that Tyler Glasnow will be on the mound this afternoon after finishing his regular season with a 3.60 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 120 innings.
Glasnow did go through a rough stretch at the end of the season, allowing 14 earned runs over three starts, but he did throw five shutout innings in his final regular-season start. The big right-hander will now turn his attention to a Rangers lineup that had the 3rd best slugging percentage, OPS, and BABIP in the league this season.
A big reason for the Rangers' success was Corey Seager playing at an MVP-caliber level. The shortstop hit .327 with 42 doubles and 33 home runs, which, along with Marcus Semian, helped carry the Rangers through their losing slides. Pitching-wise, Texas likely envisioned Jacob DeGrom or Max Scherzer on the mound today, but instead, it will be lefty Jordan Montgomery.
The trade deadline acquisition was lights out after putting on a Rangers uniform, pitching to a 2.79 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 67.7 innings of work. Today will be Montgomery’s third career postseason appearance and second career start.
The total for game one of this series is set at 7.5, and I’ll be taking the over for my play. These are not starters I would traditionally target the over on, but there are a lot of factors at play in this one. From September 1st to October 1st, the Tampa Bay Rays lineup hit .308 and ranked 3rd in wRC+, wOBA, OPS, and 1st in hard hit percentage against left-handed pitching.
It’s clear the Rays are seeing lefties well, and while Montgomery was solid in a Rangers uniform, he is still in the 33rd percentile in expected batting average and has a 4.36 xFIP on the road. Montgomery will also give way to a Rangers bullpen that had a 5.08 ERA and the 10th-highest hard-hit percentage in the last month of the season.
Tampa Bay isn’t the only team with ideal offensive numbers for their matchup, as the Rangers finished the last month of the season ranked 4th in wRC+, 3rd in OPS, and 1st in hard hit percentage against right-handed pitching. Glasnow is impressive, but he is also in the 4th percentile in barrel percentage and has allowed four or more runs in five of his nine career playoff starts.
Over 7.5 (-108)