Rays-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers have met in the postseason each of the last two years. The results of their six head-to-head matchups over the next two weeks may determine whether they'll have the chance to square off in October yet again.

Rays starter David Price seeks another stellar performance when Tampa Bay visits Texas in the opener of a three-game series Monday night.

The Rays gained ground on the New York Yankees in the AL East by winning 14 of 17 from Aug. 7-23, but they dropped the final two games of their weekend series with Oakland - losing 4-2 on Saturday before hitting the road as the Republican National Convention came to town.

Tampa Bay (70-57) now trails the Yankees by four games, and leads an AL wild-card race in which one-half game separates four teams for two spots.

"We've just got to be playing at the top of our game, which I think we are," manager Joe Maddon told the Rays' official website. "I think, overall, our game has picked up a lot.

"I feel good about where we're at right now, and I feel good about how it looks moving forward."

Price (16-4, 2.28 ERA) unquestionably has been at the top of his game lately, not having lost since June 13 and having won a franchise-record eight consecutive decisions.

The left-hander has furthered his case for becoming Tampa Bay's first Cy Young Award winner by going 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA over his last four starts, allowing two runs in 30 innings. He gave up three hits in eight scoreless innings of the Rays' 1-0, 10-inning loss to Kansas City on Tuesday.

"I'll go out there and continue doing the same things I've been doing," Price told the team's official website.

Price had gone 0-6 with a 5.30 ERA in his first nine starts - including postseason - versus the Rangers before giving up two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-2 victory in the finale of a three-game series April 29 at Texas.

Tampa Bay won twice in that set as the teams met for the first time since the Rangers knocked off the Rays in four games in last year's AL division series en route to their second straight World Series appearance. Texas also eliminated Tampa Bay in a 2010 ALDS, winning in five games.

The Rangers (75-52) own the AL's best record and a 5 1/2 game lead in the West despite falling 6-5 to Minnesota on Sunday.

Josh Hamilton hit his 35th homer and drove in four runs, but Texas had its four-game winning streak snapped.

The Rangers will look to bounce back with some help from Derek Holland (8-6, 4.92), who is coming off his first victory since July 25.

The left-hander gave up three runs in seven innings of a 12-3 win over Baltimore on Wednesday after going 0-1 with a 5.88 ERA over his previous four starts.

"Hopefully, (Wednesday was) the night to get him over the hump where he can be consistent," manager Ron Washington told the Rangers' official website. "He's been throwing the ball well."

Holland lost to Price in April when he allowed five runs while striking out eight in seven innings. He's 3-2 with a 6.49 ERA in six regular-season starts versus the Rays, with B.J. Upton (7 for 15, homer), Jeff Keppinger (4 for 9) and Evan Longoria (6 for 16, four doubles, homer) all hitting him well.

The Rays will host the Rangers for three more crucial games Sept. 7-9.

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