After completing a series sweep of the top team in the American League Central, the Tampa Bay Rays open a three-game series against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers on Friday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., in a matchup of the two teams with the best records in baseball.
Tampa Bay, in first placein the AL East, brings a major league-best 46-19 record into the contest and has won six in a row. The Rays completed their seventh series sweep of the season with a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon to improve their home record to a major league-best 29-6.
Texas, which leads the majors with 386 runs scored and a plus-154 run differential, is the only other team in the majors to hit the 40-win mark (40-21). The Rangers had a five-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday by the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, 1-0.
"They're good, no denying," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of the Rangers. "You can see the runs they're putting out. The pitching has been really good. They made some good offseason moves -- obviously (manager) Bruce Bochy, that's a pretty good one. ... A very, very dangerous team, but it should be a fun series."
"It's another series," Rays first baseman/outfielder Luke Raley said. "That's how we take it. It doesn't matter who's here and where we go, we're going to go out and play our game.
"They're obviously playing great ball over there. They score a lot of runs. I think it's going to be a really good series."
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 3.72 ERA) will make his third start of the season after missing two months with a left oblique injury suffered early in spring training. Glasnow is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two career starts against Texas but both of those occurred before he underwent Tommy John surgery in November of 2021.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney (4-3, 4.03) will start for Texas. Heaney is 0-3 with a 3.67 ERA in five career starts against Tampa Bay, including 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts at Tropicana Field, the last of which came in 2019 while he was with the Los Angeles Angels.
Texas, which is 19-12 on the road, swept three games from the Seattle Mariners and then took two of three from St. Louis during a 5-1 homestand that ended with the 1-0 loss to the Cardinals. Jon Gray threw the second complete game of his nine-year career in the loss and struck out a season-high 12 batters but yielded an eighth-inning solo homer to Alec Burleson, one of just four hits for St. Louis.
Gray (6-2), who didn't walk a batter, joined some elusive company with his performance. He became just the third pitcher in history to pitch nine innings and allow just one run and no walks with 12 or more strikeouts and still lose a game. The others were James Shields (Oct. 2, 2012) and a fellow named Cy Young (Sept. 10, 1904).
Second baseman Marcus Semien went 0-for-4 in the loss to have his 25-game hitting streak, tied for the longest in team history, come to an end. Still, Bochy was upbeat afterward.
"Hey, great homestand," Bochy said. "Really good homestand. We can probably use a day off and head to Tampa. We're playing a tough team. We played well but we just couldn't get a big hit."
--Field Level Media