Rays-Rangers Preview


The Tampa Bay Rays exacted a little bit of revenge while extending their winning streak.

To earn a seventh straight victory Saturday night, the Rays must overcome their woes against undefeated Texas Rangers starter Colby Lewis.

Tampa Bay (13-7) jumped on the team that's eliminated it from the past two postseasons early in Friday's series opener. The Rays scored four runs in the first inning, three coming on Evan Longoria's fourth homer of the season.

Longoria matched a season high with four RBIs and Jeff Keppinger and B.J. Upton combined for six of the Rays' season-high 16 hits in an 8-4 win.

"We've been on a nice little streak," said James Shields, who got credit for the win after allowing four runs in six innings. "We wanted to get this series started off right."

Tampa Bay, on its longest winning streak in one season since a seven-game run July 24-30, 2010, has been far less productive in its last four matchups against Lewis (2-0, 2.03 ERA), including postseason.

The right-hander has gone 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in those starts, and gave up only a solo home run to Desmond Jennings over six innings in Game 3 of last year's division series, a contest the Rangers won 4-3. Texas went on to take the series 3-1, after going the full five games against Tampa Bay to win the 2010 ALDS between the teams.

Lewis, who also tossed eight scoreless innings against the Rays last June 1, has not issued a walk in his last 24 2-3 innings overall. He gave up two runs over seven innings Sunday at Detroit but did not get a decision in a 3-2 win.

"The last couple of years, I've tried to improve each season. It's not a different mindset. I'm trying to make them earn it," Lewis told the Rangers' official website.

Friday's loss was only the fifth this season for the Rangers (15-5) but the fourth in 11 home games. Judging by their recent matchups with Jeff Niemann (1-2, 4.11), they might bounce back with a win Saturday.

The right-hander is 0-2 with an 11.17 ERA in his two career starts against the Rangers, both of which took place last September. He gave up five runs over five innings of a 7-2 loss in Arlington on Sept. 1.

Niemann is coming off his first win over the season, a 6-2 victory over Minnesota on Sunday in which he gave up two runs and three singles over 5 1-3 innings.

David Murphy is 4 for 6 off Niemann, while Mike Napoli is 5 for 12 with a homer, a double and a triple.

Jennings, who is seeking to extend his overall hitting streak to 10 games, is 8 for 24 during a six-game hitting streak versus Texas including postseason.

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