It would not surprise anyone if the Texas Rangers made a third straight ALCS appearance this October. The two-time defending American League champs once again rank among the elite clubs with a solid offense, defense and pitching staff.
Should their opponents be the Baltimore Orioles in an ALCS showdown, that would be a shocker. Baltimore opened the week and their series vs. Texas on Monday with the best record in the Junior Circuit, a half-game better than the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and a full game above the Rangers who own a 3.5-game advantage in the AL West.
The two division leaders were set to begin their 4-game set Monday night with a matchup of left-handers at Camden Yards. Matt Harrison was on the hill for Texas who was priced in the -130 to -140 range. Baltimore sent Brian Matusz to the mound with a 9½-run total on the Don Best odds screen. Results were still pending at press.
Baltimore had won five straight to get back on top in the AL East, and was coming off a big sweep in Boston that included a 13-inning contest last Friday and a marathon 17-inning affair on Sunday. Buck Showalter's bullpen was spent by the end of the series finale, forcing him to send DH Chris Davis to the mound for the final two frames. Davis got the win with two scoreless innings while Boston outfielder Darnell McDonald was the losing pitcher in relief for the Red Sox.
Texas' fast start to the season has cooled considerably on this road trip that started in Toronto last week before the Rangers headed to Cleveland over the weekend. The Rangers dropped two of three in each series, marking three successive series defeats after beginning the year winning their first six series.
Tuesday's second game (7:05 p.m. ET) switches to a right-handed duel between the Rangers' Neftali Feliz and Jake Arrieta for the O's.
This will be the fifth start of the season for Feliz to go with one relief outing. In his first season as a starter, Feliz has managed to post a respectable 3.81 ERA while limiting hitters to just a .191 batting average, but he has struggled with his command with 14 walks against 18 strikeouts (26 IP). This was especially evident his last time out when Feliz issued six free passes in five innings of a no-decision at Toronto.
Texas dropped that game by an 8-7 count and is 2-2 in Feliz' four starts to date.
Arrieta is coming off an outstanding performance at Yankee Stadium last Wednesday when he tossed eight scoreless frames in Baltimore's 5-0 blanking of the Pinstripe Posse. He has seen Texas three times during his short career, losing the two games played in Baltimore and winning the one outing in Texas.
The Rangers hit him hard the one time Arrieta faced them in 2011, one of three games between the clubs last year in which Texas scored 13 runs. The Rangers entered Monday's game having won their last five against the O's, and seven of the last nine.
Kennedy Gets Call For Snakes On Tuesday Against Cardinals
Venturing west from Baltimore out to Phoenix, the Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals continue their series with Game 2 of a 3-game set on Tuesday (9:40 p.m. ET). Squaring off on the hill will be Arizona's Ian Kennedy and St. Louis' Jake Westbrook, a rematch of an April 2011 contest that Kennedy would rather forget.
The series was set to get underway Monday with the Redbirds slight favorites behind right-hander Lance Lynn. Lefty Joe Saunders was taking his turn for the D-Backs in that game that listed an 8½-run total.
Arizona is returning home after a 10-game road trip that started off great before petering out for a 5-5 split. The Diamondbacks dropped four of the last five to the Mets and Nationals, scoring just 14 times in those matches. The lineup has really missed Chris Young who is on the DL with a shoulder injury. Arizona averaged 4.72 runs per game with Young in the order, but just 3.94 in the 18 games they were without him before Monday.
The scoring slide struck Kennedy in both of his assignments on the recent road trip. Kennedy tossed a combined 13-1/3 innings while allowing just three runs, and Arizona lost each game.
This series is the back half of a 6-game trip for the Cardinals who were beaten twice over the weekend in Houston. The Astros held St. Louis' bats at bay in the first two games before the Cards popped three homers and scored eight times in Sunday's victory to avoid the sweep. St. Louis ranked second in all of baseball averaging 5.43 RPG entering play on Monday.
Westbrook was knocked around a bit at home his last time out by the Pirates, dropping a 6-3 decision as a $1.50 favorite. His first four starts of the season were quality efforts, however.
Kennedy and Westbrook were matched up at Chase Field a little more than a year ago, and St. Louis cruised to a 15-5 victory as a +115 underdog. The Cardinals chased Kennedy from the mound after the third and having scored nine runs, easily his worst start of an otherwise excellent 2011 campaign (21-4, 2.88 ERA).