Aaron Civale seeks to guide Rays to series win vs. Rangers

Staff ace Zach Eflin gave Tampa Bay the start it needed Tuesday night.

Now the Rays will turn to right-hander Aaron Civale for a possible series win over the reigning World Series champion Texas Rangers.

A winner his first time out, Civale will take the mound against the Rangers on Wednesday to conclude the teams’ three-game set in St. Petersburg, Fla.

But Tuesday belonged to Eflin, who was lined up to be the club’s No. 3 starter if Shane McClanahan had remained healthy and Tyler Glasnow had remained on the team.

Eflin bewildered the Rangers, who entered the contest 12-0 in the past dozen road games, including last postseason, which ended with the franchise’s first World Series title.

Over 6 1/3 innings Tuesday, the right-hander yielded one run on five hits with five strikeouts and a walk in the Rays’ 5-2 victory.

“He really sets the tone for our rotation,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s easily the guy to provide a start like that.”

And the best result of Eflin’s outing?

“It settles the media a little bit probably about us walking too many guys,” Cash said.

Texas manager Bruce Bochy refused to blame the setback on a somber clubhouse mood after third baseman Josh Jung broke his wrist Monday.

“It starts with the guy on the mound, and Eflin was good tonight,” Bochy said. “We ran into a well-pitched game.”

Civale (1-0, 1.50 ERA) dominated the Toronto Blue Jays with six innings of one-run ball in the season’s second game, and his track record over four career starts against the Rangers is sharp.

The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in four career starts vs. Texas, allowing just five runs and 14 hits in 22 innings. He has struck out 20 and issued just three walks against the Rangers.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s matchup, Texas promoted Justin Foscue from Triple-A Round Rock to help in Jung’s estimated six-week absence.

A second baseman by trade, Foscue played 35 games at third base for the affiliate last season — his second-most at any position other than second base.

Foscue, 25, spent all of 2023 with Round Rock, batting .266 with 18 homers and 84 RBIs.

The Rangers like his keen eye at the plate and ability to make contact: He had 85 walks and just 70 strikeouts.

“Any player that walks more than they strike out, it’s a timeless principle that’s going to really help them at the major league level,” Rangers bench coach/offensive coordinator Donnie Ecker said during spring training of the right-handed hitter. “He’s already got that foundation that we really like, and then you add in his contact ability.

“I like his hitting IQ. His IQ and game plan are major league right now.”

As a freshman, Foscue started 41 games at third base for Mississippi State.

In the series finale on Wednesday, Texas right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (0-0, 3.00 ERA) will make his second start as the rotation wraps around.

On Opening Day on Thursday, Eovaldi fired six strong innings at the Chicago Cubs after the pre-game World Series-winning celebration. He allowed just five baserunners (four hits, one walk) as the Rangers recorded a 4-3 victory in 10 innings.

In 17 career appearances against the Rays, 15 of them starts, Eovaldi is 7-6 with a 3.89 ERA.

–Field Level Media