Rays better than this, but too late to matter

From Baseball Tonight Live this afternoon:

    As much as I wonder how Rays got to 30 games over .500 in best division, I marvel how Rangers never got to 20 over in worst division.

Well, let's review ... In the first two games of their most important series (so far) of the season, the Rays have

  • scored one run,

  • given up 11 runs,

  • made three errors (should be four, actually),

  • and

  • watched their manager get ejected.

  • It's hard to look like a good team when you're doing those things.

    Even if you are a good team.

    Which the Rays are.

    But this series has not, it should be said, played to their strengths.

    One of the Rays' strengths is the depth of their starting pitching. With the exception of David Price, they didn't have any real stars in the rotation. What they did have, throughout the season, were five starters who could have pitched for practically any other team in the majors.

    Matt Garza threw a no-hitter this season. Jeff Niemann won a dozen games. So did Rookie of the Year candidate Wade Davis. James Shields' ERA was certainly inflated, but posted a superior strikeout-to-walk ratio. On the rare occasion when one of those guys couldn't answer the bell, the Rays could turn to Andy Sonnanstine or rookie Jeremy Hellickson, both of whom acquitted themselves well.

    I'm sometimes guilty of exaggeration, but I don't think it's exaggerating to suggest that the Rays this season enjoyed the services of six and perhaps seven legitimate major league starting pitchers.

    That's a lot. Specifically, it's three or four more starting pitchers than you need in a Division Series.

    The Rangers, meanwhile ... Well, rotation depth was not one of their strengths in 2010. They opened the season with Scott Feldman and Rich Harden in their rotation. Feldman finished the season 7-11, with a 5.48 ERA; Harden 5-5, 5.58. They did get good work from C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis -- neither of whom, by the way, started for them in 2009 -- and of course Cliff Lee joined the Rangers in July.

    The point, though, is that if the Rangers had been able to rely on just the starters they'll use in this Division Series, they would have won more than 90 games. Conversely, if the Rays weren't able to utilize their No. 4 and 5 starters throughout the season, they wouldn't have won 96 games.

    Another of the Rays' strengths is their ability to handle right-handed pitchers. With the emergence of catcher John Jaso, the additions of outfielder Matthew Joyce and DH Dan Johnson, and the general nature of Carlos Pena, the Rays are simply better equipped against right-handers than left-handers.

    So of course they have to face two of the league's toughest left-handers in their first two games.

    Aside from playing at home, the deck was stacked against Tampa Bay in the first two games. On top of that, they simply didn't play well.

    And the result is ... Well, you saw it as well as I did. Now the Rays are in a deep hole, and nobody in Texas is going to throw them a rope.