Tampa Bay (78-74) at Texas (83-69)

Light Freezing Rain Currently: Arlington, TX
Temp: 31° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Fri Sep 25, 2009
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The Texas Rangers are still mathematically alive in the playoff race, but that could all change before this weekend is through.

The Rangers try to get their once-potent offense on track when they host the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.

Texas (83-69) is seven games back of first-place Los Angeles, and the Angels’ magic number to clinch the AL West for a third straight year is down to four. The Rangers have a chance to make up significant ground with four games in Anaheim beginning Monday, but that series could be meaningless if they don’t get things turned around this weekend.

The Rangers are coming off Thursday’s 12-3 loss to Oakland, their eighth defeat in 11 games.

The offense was a key reason for Texas’ success - it was tied for sixth in the majors with 689 runs Sept. 9 - but the Rangers have managed 10 runs in their last eight losses.

Leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler(notes) can take some of the blame for the team’s slump, batting .114 with one RBI in the last 11 games. A series against the Rays might not be the best way for Kinsler to break out of his slump. He’s hitless in 19 at-bats against Tampa Bay this season, but Texas is 4-2 in those contests.

In addition to getting the offense turned around, the Rangers also need rookie Derek Holland(notes) (7-12, 6.17 ERA) to break out of his funk.

The left-hander has recorded a 12.38 ERA in losing his last five starts after posting a 1.29 ERA in winning his previous three. He was tagged for six runs and eight hits - three homers - in Sunday’s 10-5 loss to the Angels, the fourth time during the skid he’s allowed at least six runs.

This will be Holland’s first start against the Rays since July 4, when he gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings to win 12-4.

While the Rangers still have a slim chance of making the playoffs, the Rays’ postseason hopes are over.

Tampa Bay (78-74) was the biggest surprise in baseball in 2008, winning the AL East and advancing to the World Series after 10 straight losing seasons, but it hasn’t enjoyed the same success this year.

The Rays have 19 fewer wins than a year ago and were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday.

“This hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to all year,” center fielder B.J. Upton(notes) said after Wednesday’s 5-4 win over Seattle.

Although this season has been a disappointment, the Rays are trying to end it in a positive fashion.

They’re 6-3 since an 11-game losing streak and need to win four of their final 10 to record a second straight winning season.

“We have to learn from this experience,” left fielder Carl Crawford(notes) told the Rays’ official Web site. “Next year, we have to come ready to play all of the games.”

James Shields(notes) (10-11, 4.09) takes the ball for Tampa Bay in the opener of this three-game series.

Shields has recorded a 5.63 ERA in his last five starts but has gone 3-1 thanks to a 9.00 run support average. The right-hander didn’t have the same luck in his previous five outings, going 1-4 with a 4.26 ERA with his offense backing him with an average of 2.56 runs.

Shields allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings Friday to beat Toronto 11-4.

This will be Shields’ first start against the Rangers since 2007. He’s 2-0 with a 4.29 ERA in three outings versus Texas.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Shields SD vs. D. Holland Tex
11-12 Record 8-13
4.14 ERA 6.12
167 K 107
52 BB 47
1.32 WHIP 1.50

Scoreboard

Friday, Sep 25