Tampa Bay Rays (67-94) at Texas Rangers (95-66)
Sunday, October 02 - 3:05 PM EST
Globe Life Park in Arlington, Arlington, Texas
One of the bright spots during an otherwise disappointing season for the Tampa Bay Rays has been the re-emergence of Evan Longoria as an All-Star caliber player. Longoria boasts career highs in homers (36), hits (172) and is two shy of his first 100-RBI season since 2010 as the visiting Rays complete the regular season Sunday against the American League West champion Texas Rangers.
Longoria knocked in his 98th run Saturday as Tampa Bay notched a 4-1 victory to even the series, leading the Rays to their third victory in five encounters with Texas in 2016. Tampa Bay’s Chase Whitley will get his first start since May 14, 2015, when he was with the New York Yankees, and the right-hander faces Rangers left-hander Martin Perez. Texas owns home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs and that quest begins Thursday against the wild-card game winner. The Rangers, who are one shy of matching their franchise record for wins (96, 2011), rested regulars Adrian Beltre, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Beltran, Elvis Andrus and Carlos Gomez on Saturday and will likely field a similar lineup Sunday.
TV: 3:05 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), FSN Southwest (Texas)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Chase Whitley (0-0, 1.74 ERA) vs. Rangers LH Martin Perez (10-11, 4.37)
Whitley makes his first start since returning from Tommy John surgery after coming out of the bullpen four times for the Rays. The 27-year-old Alabama native was sharp in his first three relief outings, allowing one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings, before yielding four runs (two earned) over 3 2/3 frames Tuesday. Whitley made 16 starts and 28 appearances for the New York Yankees in 2014 and 2015, recording a 5-5 record overall.
Perez gets his fourth chance at a career-high 11th win after posting two quality starts and getting pounded for eight runs across 6 2/3 innings Monday. The 25-year-old Venezuelan needs 4 1/3 innings to reach 200 for the first time. Longoria is 5-for-10 with a homer versus Perez, who gave up six runs in six innings of a loss at Tampa Bay on Aug. 21 to drop to 0-2 with a 5.24 ERA lifetime against the Rays.
1. Texas CF Ian Desmond, one of the regulars to play Saturday, has hit safely in five straight games and nine of the last 10.
2. The Rays, who received a homer from LF Corey Dickerson on Saturday, are two away from tying the club record for extra-base hits in a season (532, 2009).
3. The Rangers’ bullpen extended its streak of scoreless innings to 32 1/3 innings Saturday after breaking the franchise record one day earlier.
PREDICTION: Rays 5, Rangers 3