Tampa Bay (37-25) at Texas (31-33)

Fair Currently: Arlington, TX
Temp: 74° F
  • Game info: 5:05 pm EDT Sun Jun 8, 2008
  • TV: FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Even a matchup with the hot-hitting Texas Rangers hasn’t kept the Tampa Bay Rays from displaying their pitching strength.

The Rays look to continue their strong work on the mound on Sunday when they try for their first three-game sweep of the Rangers in Arlington in nearly six years.

Tampa Bay (37-25) has boasted one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, compiling a 3.78 ERA. Meanwhile, Texas (31-33) ranks among the best-hitting teams in the league, batting .284 and totaling a major league-leading 355 runs.

The Rangers also entered the series having scored at least eight runs in seven of their previous nine games.

But it’s been the Rays who have had the advantage in winning the first two games of the series, winning 12-4 on Friday and following it up with a 5-4 victory on Saturday.

J.P. Howell pitched two perfect innings in relief of starter Andy Sonnanstine, while Dan Wheeler got the last four outs for his second save of the season.

“(The Rangers) are very hot offensively,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I have a lot of respect for them. Our pitchers have done a tremendous job against them. Wheeler had a very difficult job against the middle of their lineup.”

Tampa Bay displayed some offensive skill of its own as Gabe Gross hit a two-run homer and Willy Aybar added a two-run double as the club remained one-half game behind AL East-leading Boston.

The Rays hope their run of effective pitching continues behind Matt Garza, who will try to lead them to their first three-game sweep of the Rangers at Texas for the first time since Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2002.

First, though, Garza (4-2, 4.21 ERA) must bounce back after losing for the first time in three starts on Tuesday. He yielded seven runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 7-4 defeat at Boston.

The right-hander is hoping for better luck against Texas. Garza, who is 1-2 with a 6.18 ERA in five road starts, has conceded just four runs and 10 hits over 14 1-3 innings while winning his two starts versus the Rangers—both at home.

In a 5-3 win on May 28, he also struck out a season-high 10 in eight innings.

He will also try to contain Rangers shortstop Michael Young, who is batting .343 (36-for-105) with seven doubles, three homers and 13 RBIs during a 22-game hitting streak.

Texas, though, is looking for consistency from a staff that is last in the majors with a 5.10 ERA.

“Offense comes and goes depending on the pitching you’re facing,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We just want to get (the pitching) straightened out. Those guys are capable of doing the job.”

Washington hopes to get a good effort from rookie Doug Mathis (1-1, 9.00), who will make his fourth career start.

The right-hander did not receive a decision on Monday, when he was roughed up for eight runs and a season-high 12 hits over 3 2-3 innings of a 13-9 home loss to Cleveland. It will be his first appearance against the Rays.

Tampa will again be without outfielder Jonny Gomes, who began serving his five-game suspension Saturday for his role in a bench-clearing brawl in Wednesday’s game against Boston. Rays outfielder Carl Crawford and second baseman Akinori Iwamura are expected to appeal their bans of four and three games, respectively, though their suspensions have been staggered by the league to take place later this month.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Garza Mil vs. D. Mathis TB
11-9 Record 2-1
3.70 ERA 6.85
128 K 9
59 BB 14
1.24 WHIP 2.28

Scoreboard

Sunday, Jun 8