Surging Rays take on reeling Rangers

With 10 days remaining before the All-Star break, the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays have ground to make up if they want to return to this year’s postseason.

The clubs are moving in opposite directions ahead of the opener of their three-game series on Friday night in Arlington, Texas.

The Rays, who have won 10 of their past 14 games, just took two of three from the Royals in Kansas City for their fifth straight series win. In Game 3 on Thursday, Tampa Bay had 10 runs on 16 hits and held on for a 10-8 victory.

A balanced Rays offense saw eight different batters drive in at least one run. Outfielder Jonny DeLuca drove in a pair and had a season-high three hits.

For Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash, the recent hot streak is better late than never.

“We’re doing a lot of things well right now,” he said. “The hitting is coming along. We’re getting a lot of contributions from starters and relievers. A lot is going well.”

A 99-win club last season, Tampa Bay is one game above .500 this season and 3 1/2 games behind Boston for the third and final American League wild-card spot.

The Rays’ starter on Friday likely will be right-hander Shane Baz, who will pitch for the first time since July 10, 2022. A 2017 first-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Baz, 25, missed the entire 2023 season with Tampa Bay after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2022.

In nine career starts in 2021-22, Baz is 3-2 with a 4.02 ERA. Friday will mark Baz’s first career meeting with Texas.

The Rangers would love to spoil Baz’s return, as the reigning World Series champions desperately need to jump-start their season. Eight games behind AL West leader Seattle, Texas looks like a shadow of the team that swept the Rays in last season’s wild-card series.

After dropping two of three at home to the San Diego Padres, including 3-1 on Thursday, the Rangers have lost eight of 10. Texas has averaged just 2.75 runs in the eight losses.

The lack of offense resulted in the most recent loss, as Texas had just one run on six hits in Thursday’s defeat. Right-hander Max Scherzer, making his third start of the season, fell to 1-2 following 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball.

Scherzer, a key to Texas’ chances of reviving its season, made his longest outing since returning from the 60-day injured list on June 23.

“Pretty good; he stretched out,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “We talked about it before the game. That’s about where we wanted him, and he felt good as he went out there in the seventh.”

Michael Lorenzen (4-4, 3.40 ERA) will take the ball in the series opener Friday for the Rangers, who will need a strong start from the 32-year-old. In his last start Saturday, the right-hander gave up five earned runs over five innings in a 6-5 loss to Baltimore.

Lorenzen has faced Tampa Bay just once in his career, throwing two innings of relief and earning the victory as a member of the Cincinnati Reds on June 19, 2017.

–Field Level Media