Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays @ Oakland Athletics

Tonight's game is at 10:10 PM again, but thankfully the Saturday and Sunday games are on at 4:05. These late starts are killers.

Friday, May 7: LHP David Price vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez

Saturday, May 8: RHP Wade Davis vs. RHP Ben Sheets

Sunday, May 9: RHP James Shields vs. LHP Dallas Braden

It's deja vu all over again. After Davis and Shields helping the Rays sweep Oakland last week in a two-game series at home, we now get to replay the series in Oakland while tacking on a David Price v. Gio Gonzalez battle to boot. Braden and Sheets were both ineffective in their two starts, each giving up at least six runs while only lasting four innings, but they are still good pitchers and could give the Rays fits. Braden struggled with his command last time against the Rays (3 BB, 1 K), while Sheets was just too darn hittable (9 H, 2 HR). Will they rebound or will the Rays roll over them once again?

To me, the most interesting match-up in this series is tonight's game: Price vs. Gio. We all know how well Price has pitched so far this year, and he could stand to make a killing against the weak A's line-up. Gonzalez, meanwhile, is showing signs of improvement from previous years and could take some big steps forward this season. Control has always been his biggest weakness (5.11 BB/9 last season), but this season he's thrown more strikes and lowered his walk total a bit (4.40 BB/9). He's also inducing more groundballs (48.7%) and still striking out a high number of batter (8.48 K/9), so this could shape up to be a great match-up between two up-and-coming lefties.

Although the A's aren't division rivals, I consider this a big series. The Red Sox and Yankees are playing each other in the Bronx this weekend, so one of those two teams is going to lose at least two games. If the Rays take two of three from the A's or sweep them, they could put even more distance between themselves and both the Sox and Yanks. I think the Rays should sweep the A's and the Yanks sweep the Sox - 9.5 games sounds like a fun lead to me.

Questions for the Series:

  • How many batters will Shields strikeout? He's posted double-digit strikeout numbers in his last two starts while cranking his fastball velocity, so will this trend continue?
  • How much longer will Evan keep up his hitting streak? His hot hitting is helping carry the team right now, and I'd love to see it continue.
  • Will Pat Burrell start against lefties or righties
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