LIVE: Postseason begins with Rangers-Rays Wild Card GM 1 (ABC)

October 3rd, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- Tropicana Field might not be a great place to be a pitcher this week.

The Rays and Rangers bring the American League’s two most productive offenses into the postseason as they begin their AL Wild Card Series.

Featuring a lineup that produced five All-Star starters, Texas led the AL in runs (881), home runs (233, tied with the Twins), batting average (.263), on-base percentage (.337) and slugging percentage (.452). Tampa Bay was just behind the Rangers in most categories, scoring a franchise-record 860 runs with 230 homers, a .260/.331/.445 slash line and 160 stolen bases.

“Everybody knows those guys can score a lot of runs and that they can hit,” said Rays first baseman Yandy Díaz, the AL batting champion, through interpreter Manny Navarro. “We're going to have to score as many runs as we can. I think it's gonna be a good battle of the offenses.”

The Rangers won the season series, taking four of the six head-to-head matchups, but they only narrowly outscored the Rays, 27-25.

Both clubs started the season hot and carried a division lead well into the summer, only to finish as the top two AL Wild Card teams. Neither pitching staff looks like it probably expected to come October, as both teams have been set back by significant injuries.

The similarities and shared connections don’t end there.

The matchup pits brother against brother: Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe and his little brother, Rays outfielder Josh Lowe. They shared the field earlier this season -- a family affair for the Lowes -- and they will do so again in October.

The series also lines up friends who are as close as brothers: Randy Arozarena and Adolis García, former Minor League teammates in the Cardinals organization who broke out as rookies in 2021 before taking their friendship to the All-Star Game this summer.

When is the game and how can I watch it?

Game 1 is airing LIVE on ABC.

All series are available in the US on MLB.TV with authentication to a participating Pay TV provider. Games are available live internationally (except in Canada). Full game archives are available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends.

Who are the starting pitchers?

Rangers: Jordan Montgomery, who tossed six innings of one-run ball against the Mariners on Thursday, makes this start on regular rest. The lefty, acquired at the Trade Deadline, has been the Rangers’ most consistent starter over the past two months, posting a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts. He's got just two career postseason appearances -- one with the Yankees in 2020 and one with the Cardinals in ‘22 -- totaling just 6 2/3 innings. Having spent most of the season with St. Louis, Montgomery hasn’t yet faced the Rays this year.

Rays: Tampa Bay starts Tyler Glasnow in Game 1. After giving up 14 runs over a three-start stretch in September, the big right-hander finished strong last Wednesday night in Boston, striking out nine with only one walk and two hits allowed over five efficient innings. Glasnow faced the Rangers only once this season, allowing just one run on one hit and three walks while striking out six over six innings in an 8-3 win at The Trop on June 9.

What are the starting lineups?

Rangers: Robbie Grossman got the nod at designated hitter over Mitch Garver, and Josh Jung was dropped in the lineup to eighth.

  1. Marcus Semien, 2B
  2. Corey Seager, SS
  3. Robbie Grossman, DH
  4. Adolis García, RF
  5. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B
  6. Jonah Heim, C
  7. Leody Taveras, CF
  8. Josh Jung, 3B
  9. Evan Carter, LF

Rays: Jose Siri, who was dealing with a fractured right hand, was added to the roster and will bat eighth, while Luke Raley, who took swings on Monday, did not make it due to a cervical strain.

  1. Yandy Díaz
  2. Randy Arozarena, LF
  3. Harold Ramírez, DH
  4. Isaac Paredes, 3B
  5. Curtis Mead, 2B
  6. Manuel Margot, RF
  7. Taylor Walls, SS
  8. Jose Siri, CF
  9. René Pinto, C

How will the bullpens line up after the starter?

Rangers: Bochy has a tall task ahead of him with the Rangers' bullpen, just like he has all season long. Texas has gone through three different closers -- Jose Leclerc, Will Smith and Aroldis Chapman -- all of whom have blown big games. The club finished the regular season just 30-for-63 (47.6%) in save opportunities, marking the lowest success rate in MLB. That said, Leclerc has been the Rangers’ best reliever of late after finishing September with a 1.98 ERA across 13 2/3 innings. Some combination of Chapman, Smith, Chris Stratton, Brock Burke and Jonathan Hernández figures to be used behind the starters, with Andrew Heaney and Martín Pérez continuing to be used in long relief.

Rays: As creative as the Rays have been in the past, they’ve actually deployed their relievers in a fairly traditional way this season. Pete Fairbanks holds down the closer role, although he’s been stretched into the eighth inning twice in recent games. His top setup men are righty Robert Stephenson and lefty Colin Poche, with Shawn Armstrong (who’s capable of pitching multiple innings) among Tampa Bay's other high-leverage options. Lefty Jake Diekman and right-handers Kevin Kelly, Andrew Kittredge and Chris Devenski also have high-leverage experience. Finally, the Rays experimented with starters Zack Littell and Taj Bradley out of the bullpen in Toronto over the weekend.

Any injuries of note?

Rangers: Texas' new and improved rotation has been decimated by injuries all season with Jacob deGrom (right elbow), Max Scherzer (right shoulder) and Jon Gray (right forearm) all on the IL heading into the postseason. Gray could eventually return, but not before the end of a potential ALDS. While Scherzer is continuing to throw, any chance at a return is yet to be determined. Thankfully, the Rangers' group of All-Stars -- Seager, Nathan Eovaldi, García, Jung and Heim -- have all returned from the IL over the past week to hopefully help a powerful lineup offset the depleted rotation.

Rays: So many. The Rays lost three-fifths of their rotation to elbow injuries during the season: Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen. Brandon Lowe (right patella fracture) is out until late October. Setup man Jason Adam (strained left oblique) is hopeful for a postseason return, but it won’t be soon. Siri and Raley could be ready, but it’s unclear when they’ll be at full strength -- or how they’ll fare after being sidelined for weeks, even if they do return. Additionally, Díaz has been battling tightness in his right hamstring.

Who’s hot, who’s not?

Rangers: Marcus Semien has been the engine that keeps the offense going all season and the second baseman slashed .279/.353/.566 over the final 30 games of the regular season. Leody Taveras struggled recently in Seattle, but he hit .289 in September out of the Nos. 8 and 9 spots in the order, which is more than serviceable when setting the table for the top of the lineup.

But as noted above, Nathaniel Lowe has struggled to a .165/.305/.248 line over his past 30 games, and the Rangers' MVP candidate in Seager -- somewhat shockingly -- slashed just .207/.270/.328 over the final 15 games of the season.

Rays: Díaz has been hot all year, and September proved to be no exception as he posted a 1.051 OPS while hitting five homers. Ramírez (.991 OPS), Josh Lowe (.848 OPS) and Manuel Margot (17-for-49) also finished strong at the plate. Tampa Bay’s bullpen also shined down the stretch, recording a 3.23 ERA and a 5.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the final month.

It hasn’t been quite as smooth for infielders Taylor Walls (.491 OPS in September) or Jonathan Aranda (.606 OPS), although they both had big hits in Toronto over the weekend. And the most important hitter in their lineup might be Arozarena, who followed three dominant months to start the season by slashing just .218/.323/.361 after July 1.