Saturday night’s affair marks the first of (potentially) three games where the Rays face elimination in this series. The 2001 Yankees are the only home team to lose the first two games of the series and wind up advancing. History does not bode well for the Rays and nor do simulations or probabilities. Say, for instance, the Rays hold a 60% chance of winning each game. They do not, but say they do. That would result in about a 22% shot of winning the series.
Certain human beings like to say that games are not played on calculators (or spreadsheets) and instead are played on the field. Those human beings are correct, and so here we are, with Matt Garza and Colby Lewis dueling in the Arlington dusk. Words cannot express how tempting the idea of invoking wordplay about gunslingers and the whole Wild West lexicon is – I mean, I just used dueling and dusk – but alas, Lewis slings no heated-metal cylinders and ruins the whole scheme.
Even without the Texas heat, Lewis held the superior strikeout rates to Garza, while also besting him in every run metric featured on FanGraphs. That’s a bad sign for Tampa Bay’s chances, but hey, Lewis throws with this right arm. That means the return of Matt Joyce to the starting lineup. Joyce hit .263/.388/.526 against righties this year, and could slide into the lineup behind Evan Longoria. Carl Crawford, who could be playing in his final game while wearing Rays garb, hit .334/.381/.554 versus righties this year too. Carlos Pena, John Jaso, Dan Johnson seem likely to join the starting lineup as well.
Those numbers do not guarantee success in a single game, but you know, after the first two games, can the offense really play any worse? If the Rays do win, it’ll be interesting to see if the Rays stick with Wade Davis in game four or slide to David Price, making James Shields the default starter for a potential game five with the entire staff available in relief. That’s getting ahead of the count though – something the Rays’ offense hasn’t done enough this series.
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