Rays vs. Rangers season preview: American League's 2 best teams square off

Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays
Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Coming off a series sweep against the Minnesota Twins, the Tampa Bay Rays welcome the Texas Rangers to the Trop for a three-game set. Like the Rays, the Rangers are an offensive powerhouse. As a team, the Rangers lead the majors in average, RBI, runs, OBP, and hits.

On the pitching side, the Rangers staff has silenced the doubters heading into the year, boasting a 3.58 staff ERA. Even with the huge blow, that is the Jacob deGrom injury, the Rangers have proved to be just fine without him. Nathan Eovaldi is the new sheriff out west and looks to be one of the best signings of the offseason. Jon Gray has complemented Eovaldi very nicely and with Andrew Heaney and Martin Perez putting up solid numbers, the Rangers are proving to be a very dangerous opponent. 

Rangers at Rays, Friday June 9 preview

Since coming back from injury in late May, Tyler Glasnow hasn’t skipped a beat. Over 9.2 innings thus far, Glasnow has allowed four earned runs, good for a 3.72 ERA. In his first start against the Dodgers, Glasnow allowed three earned runs over 4-1/3 innings. Tyler’s next start was more “Glasnow-like.” The righty went 5-1/3 innings, allowed one run, and struck out six batters against the division rival, Boston Red Sox.

On the bump for the Rangers is left-hander Andrew Heaney. Heaney is having an interesting season. Despite pitching to a questionable 4.03 ERA over 11 starts this season, Heaney has been pitching better than his ERA may suggest. If you take out his two blow-up starts (seven earned runs against Baltimore, and six against Arizona), Heaney has pitched to a 2.47 ERA. If there was any team that could ambush a pitcher, it would be the Rays. This should be a fun pitching matchup for game one.

Rangers at Rays, Saturday June 10 preview

Although Taj Bradley hasn’t been “otherworldly” dominant, he’s been solid. Over 35 innings, the right-hander has pitched to a reliable, 3.60 ERA. If you take out his start against Toronto where he let up four runs over four innings (The Rays lost that game 20-1), his ERA would be 3.11. What is really promising are his strikeout numbers. At such a young age, the 22-year-old is striking out an elite, 33.1% of batters he faces. As a team, the Rangers lead the league in average against right-handed pitchers and are second in OPS against right-handed pitchers. We’ll see how this rookie navigates through a deep Ranger lineup.

Nathan Eovaldi has been a revelation for the Rangers. The former Tampa Bay Ray is fifth in ERA, second in WHIP, and already has thrown two complete games. Ever since Evoaldi’s third start on April 12th against the Kansas City Royals (where he allowed six earned runs), Eovaldi has a 1.39 ERA over the nine starts since. Out of those nine starts, five were scoreless, including his two complete games. One thing to note is that Eovaldi likes to throw his splitter a lot, he attacks with it down in the zone. Luke Raley, Jose Siri, Taylor Walls, and Brandon Lowe may all be susceptible to one of Eovaldi’s go-to pitches. 

Rangers at Rays, Sunday June 11 preview

Since the start of 2022, you can argue that McClanahan has been the best pitcher in all of baseball. Over 242 innings, the southpaw ranks first in ERA (2.38), 7th in FIP (3.16), and 4th in K% (29.7%). This season, McClanahan has pitched into the sixth inning in 10 of his 12 starts. Another thing to note is that the Rangers have a very righty-heavy lineup. Shane’s splits suggest that he will be fine, with righties slashing .201/.277/.358 against him.

The Rangers are throwing a lefty of their own in, Martin Perez. Perez is coming off an All-Star season in 2021 in which he threw for a career-best, 2.89 ERA, over 196-1/3 innings pitched. Like Andrew Heaney, a couple of starts have inflated Perez’s season ERA, if you take out the two starts in which Perez allowed at least six earned runs, Perez would have an ERA of 2.61. This should be a fun lefty matchup at the Trop for the series finale.