ALDS Game Four Preview: Matt Harrison

ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 03: A general view as pitcher David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches in the first inning against the Texas Rangers in Game Three of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 3, 2011 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Huh, this situation sure seems familiar: one more loss will end the Rays' season for good. I feel like I should have more of a gut-clenching reaction when I hear that, but considering the Rays played with their backs to the wall for the final two weeks of the season, this state of almost-elimination is all too commonplace by now. Like it or hate it, this is where the Rays love to live this season.

Things don't get any easier for the Rays today, as left-hander Matt Harrison will be taking the mound for the Rangers. Harrison is a 26-year-old starter that -- after bouncing back and forth between starting, relieving, and the minors for the past three seasons -- finally managed to stick in the Rangers' rotation this year. He managed to exceed all expectations, posting a 3.39 ERA and 3.52 FIP while slowly improving his performance more and more as the season progressed.

Harrison has a wide repertoire of pitches: a four-seam fastball (93 MPH), two-seam fastball (92 MPH), cutter (87 MPH), changeup (83 MPH), and curveball (78 MPH). He doesn't strike out a ton of batters (6.1 K/9), but he manages to limit walks (2.8 BB/9) and be effective against both hands (although he is slightly better against lefties). His main weapon against right-handed hitters is his changeup -- which he throws 18% of the time and generates lots of whiffs on -- while Harrison works primarily off his fastballs and cutter against left-handed hitters.

I'd expect the Rays to stack their lineup with right-handed hitters against him, as he's has slightly more success against lefties, but it shouldn't make a huge difference. The Rays simply need to get their best hitters in the lineup, and they really need to get their offense rolling. Jeremy Hellickson will be pitching for the Rays, and while I have full faith in Hellboy, the Rays will need more than one or two runs to win. 

Today's game kicks off at 2pm (tickets are still available), so oh boy, here goes. 

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