clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Big Day Is Here: Previewing Rays-Rangers Game 1

Boy oh boy. My oh my. Ladies and gents, we've arrived in the fantastical world that's since been dubbed as the postseason. We haven't gotten much time to catch our breaths since Wednesday night, otherwise known as The Best Day of Baseball Ever, but I hope that you guys aren't sick of those lovable Tampa Bay Rays yet.

Tonight, the Rays begin their series against the Texas Rangers down in Arlington. The Rays, as you presumably know by know, won the AL Wild Card on the last day of the season, culminating one of the greatest comebacks (buoyed by one of the worst meltdowns) in the history of the game. The Rangers, on the other hand, waltzed into the postseason, winning 96 games while retaining a double-digit lead in the division standings.

You'd think that the Rays are the ones riding a hot streak into the postseason, having won their final five games in route to the wild card, but the Rangers are actually on an even longer winning streak. Texas won its last six games, and 14 of their last 16. So while the Rays are the darlings of the baseball world right now, it's worth noting that the Rangers have probably been playing better baseball lately.

Now let's take a closer look at tonight's pitching match-up.

C.J. Wilson against Matt Moore

Boy, the Rays just can't help but make things as interesting as possible. They've come back from the brink like twelve different times this season, and now after all of that, they're using a pitcher with ONE MLB START EVER under his belt in Game 1 of the ALDS. Yep, you've read that right.

Now, to be fair, there are a whole lot of good reasons for why the Rays are starting Moore in Game 1. He's essentially the top pitching prospect in the game at the moment, with that designation being a borderline consensus at this point. His stuff is unmatched on Tampa's roster outside of David Price. He's also been dominant at every level of the minors, and has pitched well in a small sample with the Rays thus far.

Yeah, it's the playoffs, and yeah, the pressure will be on. But the Rays are an organization that's typically emphasized the idea that talent trumps all, and this move perfectly exemplifies that. Sure, Tampa could use a more experienced starter like Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann in Game 1, but they think that Moore is the most talented option, and they're going to run with that. Given how good Moore's stuff is, and the subsequent possibility that he turns in a dominant performance, you have to respect Joe Maddon and company's decision.

As for the Rangers, you guys probably know about C.J. Wilson by now. He's going to be the top free agent pitcher on the market beyond CC Sabathia, and he just turned in an absolutely dominant season with Texas. A 31-year-old converted reliever, Wilson posted a 2.94 ERA in 223 innings this season, along with strong peripherals as well. Only Sabathia, Justin Verlander and Dan Haren posted strong fWAR figures than Wilson this season among AL pitchers.

So the Rangers are clearly throwing their best pitcher out there on Day 1, presumably with an eye on taking an early lead in the series. It's hard to tell how Moore will pitch this evening- things could really go either way- but people are pretty off-base if they think that the Rays are just throwing in the towel on this game. If any Ray other than Price or James Shields can outpitch Wilson on a single night, it's Matt Moore.