Tampa Bay Rays
(91-71, AL Wild Card Winner)

Texas Rangers
(96-66, AL West Winner)

Last season, the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays played a fantastic series in the first round of the playoffs that stretched five games, all five of which were won by the road team. This year, can we expect to see a similar series? Check out our MLB betting preview for this affair.

Pitching Edge: Tampa Bay is likely the one team that no one wanted to face. Though Manager Joe Maddon hasn't formally announced his pitching staff yet, he fully expects to leave this rotation exactly the way that it has been in the regular season. He has 100% confidence in all of the men that he is going to trot out there, including Jeff Niemann (the likely Game 1 starter), James Shields, David Price, and Jeremy Hellickson... and that doesn't even include Wade Davis either. The bullpen for Tampa Bay is chock full of guys that you have never heard of before, but they can get the job done thanks to pitching coach, Dave Hickey, arguably the best at his craft in the bigs today. Texas has a deep pitching staff as well this year, but unlike last season when it had Cliff Lee, it doesn't have that ace that you know is going to win a game for you when you really need it. Alexi Ogando is the odd man out and will be added to a stout bullpen which got a total makeover at the trade deadline with the addition of Koji Uehara and Mike Adams. The rotation will feature CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland in some order. Tampa Bay has better starters, but Texas likely has the better bullpen, including at the back, where Neftali Feliz is certainly the better of the two closers. This is too tough to call. Advantage: Push

Lineup Edge: Tampa Bay's lineup really looks nothing like that of a playoff team this year. Only Casey Kotchman batted higher than .277, and only Evan Longoria and BJ Upton had more than 20 home runs... and they batted .244 and .243 respectively. Still, there are definitely some grizzled veterans in this bunch like Johnny Damon who know what they're doing in the postseason. Texas meanwhile, had the best batting average in baseball this year at .283 as a team, and it ranked in the Top 5 in every single major offensive category. Only Michael Young batter better than .300, but Mike Napoli and Endy Chavez both hit over .300 without having enough at bats to qualify, and Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre were a combined six points away from both hitting .300. There isn't an easy out in this lineup anywhere, and this team just seems to find ways to consistently put runs on the board. That's good enough for us. Advantage: Texas

Series History: We've already talked about that epic series last year in which all five road teams ended up winning. Saying the same this year is going to be tough with these two clubs combining to win 99 games at home this season. The Rangers are 28-11 in their last 39 home games, while the Rays have to knock off the fact that they have lost six out of eight in the playoffs dating back to the 2008 World Series. Texas won the season series 5-4, and the series was just about as close as the final margin suggests. Give the slight edge to the Rangers, but it's not a huge one. Advantage: Texas

Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays ALDS Schedule
Game 1 (Friday): Tampa Bay Rays (Jeff Niemann) @ Texas Rangers (CJ Wilson)
Game 2 (Saturday): Tampa Bay Rays (James Shields) @ Texas Rangers (Derek Holland)
Game 3 (Monday): Texas Rangers (TBD) @ Tampa Bay Rays (TBD)
Game 4 (Tuesday, if nec): Texas Rangers (TBD) @ Tampa Bay Rays (TBD)
Game 5 (Thursday, if nec): Tampa Bay Rays (TBD) @ Texas Rangers (TBD)

Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays Pick: This series is going to be tight the entire way, and we would be completely shocked if it didn't end up going the distance. That being said, we just trust that an underachieving Tampa Bay rotation is just going to barely be able to outlast the Rangers. We love the way that the Rays are coming into the playoffs with a slick, laid back attitude, and we think that that will carry them to the crucial win in Game 5.

MLB Playoffs Pick: Tampa Bay Rays in 5 Games