(Photo credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
The Texas Rangers had their sights on four days of rest and home-field advantage for their American League playoff opener.
Instead, they made a long flight from Seattle to Florida to play the best-of-three AL wild-card series on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays. The series begins Tuesday at St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Rangers (90-72) led the AL West for nearly the entire season but dropped three of their final four regular-season games. The Houston Astros caught Texas on Sunday, held the tiebreaker edge to become division champs and earned the bye.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are the No. 5 seed and facing the No. 4 Rays (99-63), who fell one victory short of the franchise mark set in 2021.
"It's going to be up to us to go through Tampa and play a really good team," Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. "So we've got to bounce back and get this offense going. It's good to be here."
Rangers All-Star second baseman Marcus Semien said, "We're gonna have to take a different route now to get to our ultimate goal."
Game 1 is expected to feature left-hander Jordan Montgomery starting for Texas and right-hander Tyler Glasnow for Tampa Bay.
Both teams have a lot of firepower. The Rays set franchise marks for homers (230) and runs (860) and Yandy Diaz (.330) became the first Tampa Bay player to win the batting title.
Texas (881) is the only AL club to score more runs than the Rays and the Rangers (233) also tied for the AL homer lead with the Minnesota Twins. Corey Seager (.327) battled Diaz for the batting crown, falling short with an 0-for-4 day in Sunday's 1-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
Diaz is expecting the scoreboard to be busy during the series.
"Everybody knows those guys can score a lot of runs and they can hit," Diaz said. "We're going to have to score as many runs as we can. I think it's going to be a good battle of the offenses."
Texas won four of the six regular-season matchups with the Rays. But Tampa Bay took two of three at home in mid-June.
"Really good team. A lot of offense. Pretty versatile offense," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "And then their pitching, they've done a nice job here lately. They've had injuries, kind of like we've had here as of late, and they figured out ways to win games."
The Rangers' Max Scherzer hasn't pitched since Sept. 12 due to a muscular injury in his shoulder. He said Sunday that he's "still in the recovery process from a strain." In addition, fellow right-hander Jon Gray (forearm) will miss the series.
Montgomery (10-11, 3.20 ERA) has been Texas' best pitcher down the stretch. He is 2-0 with an 0.67 ERA over his past four starts and allowed just 19 hits in 27 innings.
Montgomery was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline and has gone 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts for the Rangers.
The 30-year-old has a 1.35 ERA in two career postseason appearances (one start).
Montgomery is 4-4 with a 5.12 ERA in 13 career starts against Tampa Bay.
Randy Arozarena (4-for-20) has two homers off Montgomery, while Manuel Margot (6-for-18) and Isaac Paredes (1-for-3) each have one.
Glasnow (10-7, 3.53) was up-and-down in September, going 3-3 with a 4.86 ERA in six outings.
Glasnow, 30, has struggled in the postseason. He is 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA in nine starts.
Glasnow defeated the Rangers on June 9 when he gave up just one hit -- a solo homer by Leody Taveras -- in six innings.
He's 3-0 in three career starts against Texas, allowing just that one run along with five hits. He has struck out 26 in 19 2/3 innings.
Semien is 4-for-9 against Glasnow.
--Field Level Media