The American League division leaders square off for a return engagement, this time in Arlington, Texas, beginning Monday night.
The West-leading Rangers are riding a three-game win streak, having swept the visiting Cleveland Guardians when play resumed after the All-Star break. Texas put its potent offense on display, scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to erase a 5-2 deficit and win 6-5 on Sunday
"The heart of the order and the top of the order had great at-bats," Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday, adding that the hitting "just got contagious. That's what it takes when you're behind.
Tampa Bay, which is clinging to a one-game lead in the AL East, journeys to Arlington having won its initial series out of the break, as well. The Rays swept the host Kanas City Royals in a doubleheader on Saturday before the Royals took the series finale 8-4 on Sunday
Monday's opener features the return of Rays' ace Shane McClanahan (11-1, 2.53 ERA), who leads the majors in wins (tied) and ERA among qualified pitchers. In 17 starts this season, the left-hander has 101 strikeouts over 96 innings
McClanahan, however, is coming off a pair of shortened starts. After his last appearance, when he allowed four runs on five hits with three walks in just three innings at Seattle on June 30, he landed on the 15-day injured list with midback tightness. He failed to complete four innings in his previous start, as well.
After his start against the Mariners, McClanahan said his back "tightened up on me. It's frustrating. Obviously, I want to go out there and help this team win. I didn't do that this start, last start, and I'm ready to get the ball moving in the right direction."
Though he will be facing one of the best lineups in baseball, he fared well against the Rangers on June 11 -- his first time ever facing Texas. He gave up four hits and three earned runs in seven innings, striking out five and walking one. McClanahan earned the win as Tampa Bay prevailed 7-3
Dane Dunning (8-2, 2.84) takes the ball for Texas, and he has been arguably as consistent for the Rangers as McClanahan has been for the Rays. The right-hander went six innings and yielded just one run against Boston on July 4, but is looking to bounce back from a loss to Washington on July 9, when he surrendered four runs on seven hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings
"He's just done a terrific job," Bruce Bochy said of Dunning. "He's pitched like someone at the front end of a rotation. That's how good he's been."
Dunning has two previous starts against Tampa Bay, both in 2021. He threw a combined nine innings and did not allow a run. He gave up five hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts, receiving a no-decision each time.
These two teams currently lead the major leagues in run production, 551 for Texas and 520 for Tampa Bay.
The Rays' Yandy Diaz leads the AL in batting average at .323, with each team placing three hitters in the top 20
--Field Level Media