Texas is returning home after a six-game trip in which it lost all three contests to the Boston Red Sox, but swept a three-game series at Yankee Stadium for the first time in team history.
The Rangers, with a major league-worst 5.77 team ERA, allowed 24 runs in the three losses to the Red Sox. But against the Yankees, Texas allowed eight runs in the three victories.
Texas also won three straight from April 27-29. The Rangers haven’t won four in a row since Sept. 9-12.
Rangers manager Buck Showalter, who managed the Yankees from 1992-95, tried to downplay the significance of the sweep for his team, last in the AL West at 19-24.
“It’s only worthwhile if we take it and built on it,” he said.
Texas will be looking to build on it against a Tampa Bay team that has won three straight road series for the first time in club history.
The Devil Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-8 on Sunday to take two of three, giving them three straight series wins for the first time since 2001.
Tampa Bay is still in last place in the AL East, but is only one game behind Baltimore and appears to making significant strides in its first season under manager Lou Piniella.
“The rest of the schedule will tell. This is only early May; I don’t look ahead too much,” Piniella said. “Right now we’re playing very respectable baseball and I’m pleased with that.”
Tampa Bay has won three in a row at The Ballpark at Arlington and is 11-16 all-time at the stadium.
STANDINGS (through May 18): Devil Rays - 5th place, 9 GB, AL East. Rangers - 4th place, 9 GB, AL West.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Dewon Brazelton (0-2, 5.60 ERA). The right-hander has yet to earn a win since being recalled earlier this month. In three starts, Brazelton has allowed 20 hits and 12 runs in 17 2-3 innings. He is making his first career appearance against Texas.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Joaquin Benoit (1-1, 5.40 ERA). The right-hander is also winless as a starter since being recalled earlier this month. Benoit is 0-1 in three starts, allowing 11 hits and 10 runs in 14 2-3 innings. He picked up a win in his only relief appearance this season, pitching two hitless innings in Texas’ 17-10 victory over Cleveland on May 11.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Devil Rays - Rocco Baldelli, .353 avg. and 29 RBIs; Aubrey Huff, 11 HRs and 29 runs; Carl Crawford, 10 SBs. Rangers - Hank Blalock, .354 avg.; Juan Gonzalez, 14 HRs; Carl Everett, 40 RBIs and 40 runs; Rodriguez, 6 SBs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 5-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Devil Rays - OF Huff hit .400 with three homers, three doubles and six RBIs against Texas last season. … Tampa Bay’s 5.27 ERA is sixth-worst in the majors. … CF Baldelli is batting .375 with six runs and eight RBIs during his six-game hitting streak. Rangers - Texas has posted a 32-21 record in winning all five season series against Tampa Bay. … SS Rodriguez is hitting .275 with 14 homers and 32 RBIs in his career against the Devil Rays. … RHP Benoit went 0-1 with a 14.85 ERA in two appearances against Tampa Bay last season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devil Rays - 8-13 on the road; Rangers - 10-12 at home.
INJURIES: Devil Rays - SS Rey Ordonez (knee), 15-day DL; RF Ben Grieve (thumb), 15-day DL; OF Damian Rolls (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Parris (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Bobby Seay (shoulder), 15-day DL. Rangers - CF Doug Glanville (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Chan Ho Park (back), 15-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; LF Rusty Greer (neck), 60-day DL.