One thing Joe Maddon doesn’t have to worry about is being labeled conventional. Eschewing the services of pitchers Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann, Maddon will be starting rookie Matt Moore in game one of the AL division series against the Texas Rangers. The same manager that sent a guy batting .118 on the season to the plate with his team down to its last out is now sending a guy to the mound for his second major league start of his career.
It is a rematch of last year’s AL division series in which the road team won every game. Too bad for the Rays, they had home field advantage. This year the Rangers have home field and they will be sending C. J. Wilson to the mound for game one. Moore in his one start did keep the Yankees scoreless in the Bronx picking up the only win the rays could muster in that particular four game series. He also had 11 strikeouts in just five innings of work. With Moore going in game one it sets up James Shields for game two and a possible deciding game five if necessary.
The biggest question entering today’s game is what do the Rays have left in the tank? Will they ride a wave of momentum that has carried them into the playoffs or will they run out of gas after chasing the Red Sox so hard for so long? The Rangers have their own momentum they’re looking to build on. They won their last six games of the regular season and 14 of their last 16 to distance themselves from the Angels and secure home field for the first round.
It is a mix of two teams that are very similar and in some ways very different. Both play an aggressive style that pressures the defense and both have very good starting pitching. The Rangers, though, are loaded on offense and scored almost 150 more runs than the Rays. They also hit close to 40 more homers. The two teams played six times in late August and early September and split with each team winning two out of three at home. The Rays offense does not have stellar numbers against Wilson. Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist are a combined 5-40 against him for their careers. He is 2-0 against the Rays this year in three starts, with an ERA just over two.
Can the Rays keep it going? It may take them a game to get their legs under them. Moore will have to keep the Rangers’ bats in check to give the Rays a chance. I don’t think they can outscore Texas if they get into a shootout. The Rays have been doubted all year and this series is no different. They just expect to keep proving people wrong and keep winning, even if it is unconventional.