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Sports

Rays vs. Rangers preview

Game 1: Today, 2 p.m., TBS

Tampa Bay (LHP Matt Moore 1-0, 2.89) at Texas (LHP C.J. Wilson, 16-7, 2.94)

Game 2: Saturday, 4 p.m., TNT

Tampa Bay (RHP James Shields, 16-12, 2.82) at Texas (LHP Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95)

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Game 3: Monday, 2 p.m., TBS

Texas (RHP Colby Lewis, 14-10, 4.40) at Tampa Bay (RHP Jeremy Hellickson, 13-10, 2.95)

Game 4*: Tuesday, TBA

Texas (LHP Matt Harrison, 14-9, 3.39) at Tampa Bay (LHP David Price, 12-13, 3.49)

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Game 5*: Thursday, TBA

Tampa Bay (TBA) at Texas (TBA)

*-if necessary | All times PDT

Projected lineups

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Pos. / TAMPA BAY / AVG. / HR / RBI

LF / Desmond Jennings / .259 / 10 / 25

CF / B.J. Upton / .243 / 23 / 81

3B / Evan Longoria / .244 / 31 / 99

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2B / Ben Zobrist / .269 / 20 / 91

DH / Johnny Damon / .261 / 16 / 73

SS / Sean Rodriguez / .223 / 8 / 36

1B / Casey Kotchman / .306 / 10 / 48

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RF / Matt Joyce / .277 / 19 / 75

C / Kelly Shoppach / .176 / 11 / 22

::

Pos. / TEXAS / Avg. / HR / RBI

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DH / Ian Kinsler / .255 / 32 / 77

SS / Elvis Andrus / .279 / 5 / 60

CF / Josh Hamilton / .298 / 25 / 94

2B / Michael Young / .338 / 11 / 106

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3B / Adrian Beltre / .296 / 32 / 105

1B / Mike Napoli / .320 / 30 / 75

RF / Nelson Cruz / .263 / 29 / 87

LF / David Murphy / .275 / 11 / 46

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C / Yorvit Torrealba / .273 / 7 / 37

Keys to the series

This is a rematch of a division series last year that Texas won in five games en route to the first World Series appearance in franchise history. And the teams aren’t markedly different than they were from last fall. The Rays are once again all about defense and pitching -- especially starting pitching -- while the Rangers may be the most balanced team in the playoffs. Led by right-hander James Shields, Tampa Bay’s rotation posted an AL-best 3.53 ERA during the regular season while the staff held opponents to a .234 batting average, the best mark in the AL in 40 years. But the Rays have to scrape for offense; no playoff team scored fewer runs or had a lower batting average or on-base percentage than Tampa Bay. The Rangers, meanwhile, led the majors with a .283 average and with five players with 25 or more homers, they finished second only to the Yankees in that department. But they, too, can pitch, leading the league with 19 shutouts while the rotation, which features five pitchers with 13 or more wins, posted a 3.65 ERA. If the Rangers have a weakness it’s their bullpen, which has a 4.11 ERA and 26 losses.


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