Major League Baseball
Preview
Texas at Tampa Bay
When: 7:10 PM ET, Friday, July 21, 2017
Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida

The surging Tampa Bay Rays come home after winning four of six on the West Coast to begin a six-game homestand with the first of three contests against the struggling Texas Rangers on Friday. The Rays, who finished tied for the second-least wins in the majors last year (68), hold down the first wild-card spot in the American League after earning six victories in their last eight games to put pressure on first-place Boston in the AL East.

Tampa Bay, which is 2 ½ games behind the Red Sox, is getting strong contributions from many different players and veteran third baseman Evan Longoria has stepped up this month while hitting safely in 12 of 14 games, batting .352 and knocking in 10 runs. Alex Cobb won four of his last five decisions for the Rays as he takes the mound against fellow right-hander Yu Darvish, who missed Tampa Bay earlier this season but is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA in five career games versus the Rays. The Rangers won five of six contests to climb back to .500, but have since dropped five in a row since to match a season-worst slide while allowing 38 runs in the process - 31 in the last three at Baltimore. Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus has also gone cold in the last eight games, registering just two hits in 33 bats during that span.

TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Texas), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers RH Yu Darvish (6-8, 3.45 ERA) vs. Rays RH Alex Cobb (8-6, 3.59)

Darvish has gone six outings without a victory, but posted quality starts in four of his last five appearances. The 30-year-old Japan native permitted three runs (two earned) and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings of a no-decision in the 4-3 loss at Kansas City on Sunday in his first start of the second half. Brad Miller has struggled (0-for-11, three strikeouts) against Darvish, who struck out 12 over six innings to beat the Rays in their last meeting in 2016.

Cobb has been very sharp of late while allowing two or fewer runs in six of his last eight starts, including Saturday when he limited the Los Angeles Angels to one tally over 7 2/3 innings. The 29-year-old Boston native has completed at least six innings in seven straight starts and yielded three homers combined in that stretch. Shin-Soo Choo is 4-for-8 with two doubles versus Cobb, who is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in four career starts against Texas.

WALK-OFFS

1. Both teams posted 22 runs as the Rays took two of three contests at Texas to end the month of May.

2. Tampa Bay RF Steven Souza Jr. (strained left hip), who left Wednesday’s loss at Oakland, is day-to-day after X-rays came back negative.

3. Texas activated RHP Keone Kela (shoulder) from the disabled list and designated INF Pete Kozma for assignment.

PREDICTION: Rays 3, Rangers 2
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away East Central West IL
Texas 45-50 L5 25-20 20-30 7-16 11-12 17-20 10-2
Tampa Bay 51-45 L1 27-19 24-26 20-21 12-8 12-11 7-5
Last Meeting
Texas Tampa Bay
Date Away Home Avg HR OPS Avg HR OPS
5/31/17 TB 7 x TEX 5 .243 0 .644 .244 4 .936
Player Stats
Season Series
Batting Player Avg Hits OPS
Texas E. Andrus .571 8 1.600
Tampa Bay S. Souza Jr. .429 6 1.429
Offense Player HR Runs RBI
Texas S. Choo 2 5 5
Tampa Bay S. Souza Jr. 2 6 4
Pitching ERA Avg K
Texas 6.43 .306 22
Tampa Bay 7.33 .289 28
Season
Batting Player Avg Hits OPS
Texas E. Andrus .282 104 .767
Tampa Bay C. Dickerson .310 114 .886
Offense Player HR Runs RBI
Texas J. Gallo 22 49 42
Tampa Bay L. Morrison 26 53 61
Pitching ERA Avg K
Texas 4.44 .238 669
Tampa Bay 4.12 .256 767