By: Nicholas Gilanfar
The 2023 season had everything. The season started with a clean sweep against the National League champions Philadelphia Phillies after having the fourth lowest odds of making the playoffs, the season ended with a trip to the postseason for the first time in seven years. Unfortunately, the Texas Rangers failed to win the AL West but still clinched a spot in the wild card series as they will be playing against the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-game series starting Tuesday, October 3.
The Texas Rangers finished the season in the second wildcard slot with a record of 90-72. The Tampa Bay Rays finished the season in the first wildcard slot with a record of 99-63. The two teams held their respective division leads for most of the season but eventually lost their divisions to Baltimore and Houston who will be getting the first-round bye. The Tampa Bay Rays have the best regular season record so they get home-field advantage in a best-of-three series against the Texas Rangers. Following the three-game wild card series the winner will play the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS.
Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays Schedule
Tuesday, October 3rd @ Tampa Bay Rays. 2:08 PM (CST)
Wednesday, October 4th @Tampa Bay Rays. 2:08 PM (CST)
Thursday, October 5th @ Tampa Bay Rays. 2:08 PM (CST) (If Necessary)
Rangers vs. Rays head-to-head in 2023
Texas and Tampa Bay met up twice in the season for two three-game series with one being in June @Tampa Bay and one in July @ Texas. The first series between the two in June was highly anticipated as both teams were atop the American League both getting a taste of legitimate contenders for the first time of the season. Tampa Bay ended up with the series edge on that one winning two out of three as Tampa Bay’s offense was a force to be reckoned with for the first two months of the season as well as starting pitching.
When both teams met up in July in Arlington, the Rangers took full control of the series sweeping them to start off a hot July. The start of July marked one of the best months for the Rangers before a turbulent August as the Rangers were fully healthy prior to the injury bug that happened later in the season. For Tampa Bay, their pitching staff started to become mangled as they lost two starters Shane McClanahan and Jeremey Springs for the year due to injury.
Both series took place prior to the trade deadline so it will be interesting to see the two teams clash together in the playoffs with both teams adding reinforcements through the deadline.
Texas Rangers Scouting Report
The Texas Rangers find themselves in good standings coming into the postseason. During the regular season, most of the pitching staff and batting order have been hit with injuries. The good news is that the batting order finds itself in an encouraging position with everybody fully healthy along with the reinforcements #1 prospect Evan Carter has brought to the lineup in a short amount of time. The unwelcome news is, that it was announced last Thursday that Rangers starting pitcher Jon Gray will head to the 15-day IL with right lower forearm discomfort.
Texas Rangers Offense
Having five all-star starters in the Rangers batting order, four of them have dealt with injuries at some point in the season. Now everybody is healthy, and the Rangers lineup is starting to look like a juggernaut as the season winds down.
At the top of the lineup, you will typically see our half-billion-dollar duo holding 1. and 2. with Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. Semien played all 162 games this season and Seager is looking to add some hardware to his baseball career as he is a front-runner for AL MVP. Typically, in the three holes, you have first baseman Nathaniel Lowe who earned Silver Slugger honors in 2022.
For the four, five, and six hitters, the Rangers feature a three-headed dragon who has not played together in some time all dealing with injuries in separate parts of the season consisting of Adolis Garcia, 3B Josh Jung, and C Jonah Heim. In the cleanup spot, the Rangers brass was aware of what they had in Adolis Garcia. As for Jung and Heim, they were two focal points to the Rangers’ offensive success this year as they started to burst onto the scene.
Lastly, the back half of the lineup has always served consistently for the Rangers as they feature backup catcher Mitch Garver hitting seven, second-year OF Leody Tavares, and #1 prospect Evan Carter. When all-star C Jonah Heim went down for injury, Mitch Garver began to take extended playing time and ran away with that opportunity by surging offensively and earning a permanent spot as the designated hitter. As for Carter and Tavares, having those two switching off batting ninth every other game is like having two leadoff hitters as they do what they are asked of and are able to capitalize on any opportunity on their horizon.
Texas Rangers Projected Starting Rotation
1.) Jordan Montgomery (Game 1)
2.) Nathan Eovaldi (Game 2)
3.) Dane Dunning (Game 3)
As for the pitching, their starting pitching depth is starting to get merely thin as in the playoffs you will typically see a three-man rotation instead of a five-man rotation. The projected rotation will consist of Jordan Montgomery, Nathan Eovaldi, and Dane Dunning. Over the year, the pitching staff has dealt many blows through injuries to starters, but Manager Bruce Bochy seems confident in giving the ball to these three guys in the wildcard series.
Although the Rangers are confident in their starting pitching, that is not the case with the bullpen. For the 2023 season the Rangers had 63 save opportunities and were only able to convert 30 of them. Lately, the bullpen has been turning the curve with the likes of Jose Leclerc putting up career numbers, but you just never know when they are about to blow a lead, they are that unpredictable. Out of the playoff participants, the Texas Rangers have the worst-rated bullpen coming out of the season putting up a 4.77 ERA which was the seventh worst in baseball.
Tampa Bay Rays Scouting Report
The Tampa Bay Rays Playoff berth will mark the fifth consecutive year the club goes to the postseason. In 2020 for the pandemic season, the Rays won the American League but unfortunately lost to the LA Dodgers in the World Series. The Rays are a seasoned group as most of their players have experienced games of this type of magnitude. Although the team was able to make the playoffs and receive home-field advantage, it did not come easy to the franchise as they took heavy blows on the injury front.
Tampa Bay Rays Projected Starting Rotation
1.) Tyler Glasnow (Game 1)
2.) Zach Eflin (Game 2)
3.) Aaron Civale (Game 3)
The 2023 Tampa Bay pitching staff has taken many hits to the starting rotation as three of the five starters this year were forced to miss the rest of their seasons with injuries for Jeffery Springs, Drew Rasmussen, and All-Star Shane McClanahan.
Game one starter, Tyler Glasnow has missed the majority of his last three seasons dealing with injuries himself. Now Glasnow looks to come into this series with Texas fully healthy with the responsibilities as the ace. Glasnow was a part of the postseason rotation when the Rays won the pennant in 2020. This season Glasnow appeared in 21 games and posted a record of 10-7 and an ERA of 3.53.
Projected Game 2 starter Zach Eflin just finished a career year appearing in 31 games and posting a record of 16-8 with a 3.50 ERA. Eflin, being in his first season with Tampa Bay was a starter for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2022 in appeared in many postseason games as a reliever. Now Eflin, with a starting role, has the chance to prove that he is a top pitching threat in the postseason.
Lastly, the projected game-three starter Aaron Civale has had a tale of two seasons starting the first half in Cleveland and then being dealt to Tampa Bay during the trade deadline. In the first half of the season, Civale appeared in 13 games for Cleveland and put up a 5-2 record with a 2.34 ERA being a hot commode in the trade market. Since being dealt to Tampa Bay, Civale has appeared in ten games recording a record of 2-3 along with a 5.36 ERA. Although the end of the season did not go according to plan for Aaron Civale, it is likely a fresh start will do him justice if he were to clinch an ALDS berth in game three.
A Thin Tampa Bay Offense
Tampa Bay has dealt with injuries all season long and has been able to keep their composure through the end of the season. Right now, Tampa Bay is missing starting second baseman Brandon Lowe and outfielders Luke Raley and Jose Siri. Because of those three injuries, Tampa Bay brought up their #1 prospect Junior Caminero who has been alternating 3B, 2B, and SS. Caminero is 19 years old and has been in Tampa Bay since early September tallying 36 Plate appearances hitting a .235 batting average. The Rays have a thin infield which is why Caminero was brought on for the playoff run.
The Ray’s batting order is dynamic, just like the Rangers featured by all-stars LF Randy Arozarena and 1B Yandy Diaz. Those are two guys to look out for as they can put points on the board when you least expect it. Both all-stars had career seasons as Arozarena hit a batting average of .254 and 23 Home runs and Diaz hit a batting average of .330 and 22 Home runs.
Besides the two all-stars, this is a veteran-led lineup that executes and can get after your pitching staff on any given day. It is crucial that Texas does not overlook this Rays offense. On paper, the batting order looks underwhelming, but the Rays are playing in the postseason because they found a way to mesh this group of guys together and rally till the end.