Price & Holland Duel in Rays, Rangers Clash

By: Willie Bee | Monday, August 27, 2012

No strangers to each other having met in the ALDS each of the past two seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers begin a big 3-game series Monday in the Lone Star State with a dandy pitching matchup.

Derek Holland will deliver the first pitch for Texas with ESPN's cameras in place to document the prime-time contest (8:00 p.m. ET).  He and the Rangers are small home 'dogs (+110) with the Rays -120 favorites behind their ace David Price.  The 8½-run total will set 'over' bettors back a little at -115.

Tampa Bay sits just four games behind the Yankees in the AL East as play begins this week, and on top of the American League wild card standings by a half-game over Oakland and Baltimore.  The Rays are in the midst of a tough stretch on the schedule during which six of seven series opponents own winning records.  That includes dropping two of three at home to the A's this past weekend that tightened up the wild card ranks.

Their next 19 games include six against these Rangers, six vs. the Yankees, three in Baltimore and four later this week at Toronto.  If Joe Maddon's club is going to return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, they will have definitely earned it.

Texas owns the best mark in the Junior Circuit and a 5.5-game bulge in the AL West over the A's.  The slipping Angels sit 9.5 back as baseball heads into the final 38 days of the 2012 campaign.

The Rays visited the Rangers back in April when Texas took two of three (2-1 'under').  That series featured a Price and Holland duel, the only game Tampa Bay won.  A 4-run second did Holland in; Price worked into the seventh and allowed both Rangers runs in the 5-2 victory as +120 underdogs.

Price hasn't suffered a defeat on his ledger since June 13, and could easily be riding a 12-game personal win streak into this clash.  The Rays are 8-4 behind the former Vanderbilt star in that stretch, two setbacks of the 1-0 variety in which Price worked eight scoreless innings before exiting.  His ERA in the four losses is a paltry 1.20, and his 2.28 mark for the season leads all of baseball.

Holland has helped the Rangers to three straight wins, and dubyas in four of his last five home starts.  He's coming off a 7-IP, 3-ER triumphant performance against the Orioles last Wednesday in which he didn't allow a home run for the first time in six assignments, something that has been a problem for Holland over the course of the season (23 HR, 128 IP).

Texas' offense is clicking along with 8.0 runs per game over the course of the last eight games ('over' 5-3).  The Rangers lead the majors with a 5.19 rpg clip for the season, yet have a 68-56-3 'under' record.  Tampa Bay is even stronger to the low side of totals at 73-49-5.

The Rangers continue to play without C-DH Mike Napoli who has been on the disabled list with a quad issue since Aug. 10.  If everything goes well this week, he could return to action when the club is in Cleveland for the weekend.  The versatile Michael Young should return to the lineup Monday after taking paternity leave the past few days.

Tampa Bay is not reporting any new injuries.  The Rays hope to get pitcher Jeff Niemann back in the coming week after he missed the past three months with a fractured right fibula.

There is a 40 percent chance of rain in the D-FW metroplex during the afternoon, tapering to 30 percent tonight.  After another long, hot summer in the area, today's forecast high of 92º might feel a bit cool to fans who have been routinely enduring triple-digit temps for evening games at Rangers Ballpark.

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