There’s little reason to expect any less than another exciting matchup when two teams hoping to make a run in October conclude their season series Sunday at Tropicana Field.
Texas took two of three against Tampa Bay from Aug. 27-29, winning the first two games by a single run before falling 8-4 in the finale. The teams have split a pair of extra-inning affairs to open this set, as the Rays won 3-1 in 11 on Friday before the Rangers answered with a 4-2, 10-inning victory Saturday.
Jurickson Profar, a 19-year-old rookie, hit a tie-breaking RBI double in the 10th on Saturday, adding another exciting moment in his brief career to go along with a homer in his first major league at-bat last Sunday against Cleveland.
“He’s not afraid of the game,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “At 19 years old, that’s special.”
Josh Hamilton hit his 40th homer and had three RBIs for AL-best Texas (83-56), which has a comfortable lead in the West. The Rays (76-63) are two games behind East co-leaders Baltimore and New York.
“The razor-thin line between winning and losing was on display tonight,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Tampa Bay, which has won five of seven despite Saturday’s loss, will look to bounce back with help from James Shields (13-8, 3.88 ERA), whose only blemish in his last seven starts was a tough-luck, 1-0 loss Aug. 28 at Texas.
The right-hander allowed Ian Kinsler’s fourth-inning homer among three hits in seven innings of that contest. Shields had won his previous four regular-season starts against the two-time defending AL champs, who have knocked the Rays out of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
Shields improved to 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA over his last seven starts after allowing three runs in eight innings of a 4-3 win over the Yankees on Monday. He’s 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA in four non-playoff home starts against the Rangers, who will counter with Roy Oswalt (4-2, 5.85) as he starts in place of Matt Harrison.
Washington has decided to push Harrison’s start to Tuesday against the Indians in order to get him some extra rest for the stretch run.
“We’re just trying to give (Harrison) an extra couple of days,” Washington told the Rangers’ official website. “He understands that last year we gave him a break and it helped him. He’s the only one that’s been on regular terms, so we’re gonna do it right now and see where it takes us.”
Oswalt allowed one run in 2 1-3 innings of relief in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to Kansas City. The right-hander’s last start was Aug. 23, when he gave up four runs - three earned - in 5 1-3 innings of the Rangers’ 10-6 win over Minnesota.
His only start versus the Rays was June 20, 2008, when he allowed two runs in 7 2-3 innings of a 4-3 win for Houston.
These teams have split eight meetings, meaning Sunday will decide the season series.