Playoff baseball has arrived.
While the Rangers won four of their six regular-season matchups with the Rays, the postseason could be a different story. Tampa Bay will play the entire best-of-three series at its home stadium, Tropicana Field, where it went 53-28 this season. Texas, meanwhile, hasn't made a postseason appearance since 2016.
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PointsBet host and analyst Ariel "Prop Queen" Epstein previewed the series by giving a key to victory for each side. Here's what she had to say:
The Rangers will win if...
"... their bullpen has a magical run like the Phillies did last year."
It might take a miracle for the Rangers' bullpen to put together a magical run. The group had a 4.77 ERA in the regular season, seventh-worst in MLB and nearly a full run worse than the next-worst AL playoff team (Minnesota Twins, 3.95). Texas tried to address the issue with an early-season trade for Aroldis Chapman but has been unable to rely on him or Will Smith to close games. As a team, the Rangers blew 33 of 63 save opportunities -- the lowest save percentage in MLB.
On the other side, though, the Rangers can rely on a powerful offense to carry them. They led the AL in runs scored (881) and team batting average (.263), and their 233 home runs was tied with Minnesota for most in the AL. Led by the powerful trio of Corey Seager, Adolis Garcia and Marcus Semien, the Rangers are capable of out-hitting any team.
The Rays will win if...
"... their bats stay hot."
Tampa Bay has historically relied on great pitching to get to the postseason. While it still boasted a solid staff in 2023, it was clear that offense was the Rays' biggest strength. The Rays scored 860 runs this season -- 21 fewer than the Rangers, but still enough for a single-season franchise record.
One thing that could hinder the Rays in this series is injuries. The status' of Jose Siri and Luke Raley are in question, though the former is expected to be fully available for the series. Siri suffered a fractured right hand on Sept. 12, while Raley has a cervical strain and hasn't played since Sept. 20.