ARLINGTON, Texas -- With the Tampa Bay Rays coming to town for a three-game series, we thought it would be fun to see which first-round playoff matchup made the most sense for the Texas Rangers. The past two seasons, they've gone up against the Rays in the ALDS. And there's a chance that could happen again with the Rays vying for a wild-card spot.
So for the purposes of this exercise in speculation (hey, it's never too early to talk the playoffs, is it?), let's say the Rangers earn the top spot in the AL. That means they'd face the winner of the wild-card game, which is one game between the two wild-card teams. BTW, the Rangers would start that series on the road for the first two games (a scheduling quirk this season to get the other playoff team in means they have to do it that way).
Which team would you like to see the Rangers play? Which team would they matchup best against? The possibilities:
Tampa Bay: The Rays have lost to Texas each of the past two seasons and it's never easy to beat the same team (well, many of the same players, anyway) a third straight time. ... Tampa has a good pitching staff and an ace in David Price. But the Rangers might only see him once in a five-game series assuming he's needed to pitch the wild-card game. ... The Rays are pesky, but would the Rangers have the psychological advantage?
Baltimore: Texas Rangers North has surprised many by continuing to stay in the wild card hunt. But the Rangers took three out of four games in Baltimore this year and two of three from them in Arlington recently. The Orioles have an excellent bullpen and when they have a lead late, they keep it. But can the starting pitching hold up in a five-game series against the Rangers' bats? I don't think so.
Oakland: The upstart A's keeping hanging around behind solid pitching and timely hitting. The Rangers will see them seven more times in mid- and late-September. The Rangers and A's have split 12 games so far this season. But can the A's lineup do enough damage against Texas in a five-game series to win it? Do they have enough arms to get by Texas' lineup?
Detroit: At this point, they are behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central but still within a half-game of one of the wild-card spots. They have some big hitters who have to be respected, especially Miguel Cabrera, who has delivered some big hits against the Rangers. Of course they've got that Justin Verlander guy too, but just like with the Rays, if the Tigers need Verlander in a wild-card game, he likely can't go twice in the five-game series.
Los Angeles: The Angels are still on this list. While it would take a mammoth comeback (combined with a huge collapse) for the Angels to catch Texas, they are four games back of a wild-card spot. They could still make a run and get there. If they do, they've got some starting pitching and some big bats. But the bullpen is shaky and the starting pitching has not been consistent (have you seen Zack Greinke's numbers since the trade?). Still, they're a big rival that won't be intimidated by the Rangers. And it would be entertaining.
Chicago: If the Tigers get past the White Sox, then Chicago would fall into the wild-card mix. They've got good starting pitching and a solid enough offense. Kevin Youkilis has made a difference and Robin Ventura has done a good job as manager.
So, which of these teams do you think would be the best matchup for the Rangers in an effort to move on to the ALCS? I think it's Oakland and Baltimore. I still think Tampa Bay and the loser of the Detroit/Chicago race in the AL Central will get the wild-card spots, but to me, the easier matchup for Texas is AL West-rival Oakland or the Orioles.
Do you agree?