BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Tampa Bay Rays come to Arlington this weekend to face the Rangers in a three game set. This is a matchup of teams that represented the American League in three of the last four World Series, and that have faced each other in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons. Both teams are giving every indication that they’ll be back for more playoff baseball this October.

Both teams are similarly built largely with talent that was developed in each team’s farm system. Every starting pitcher in both teams’ rotations made their major league debut with the parent club. Both teams have achieved their recent success without huge payrolls like the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. The Rays have been among the most frugal in salary spending among all the teams. The Rangers just crossed the $100 million line this season as they attempt to keep the majority of their fine core together after the two most successful seasons in franchise history.

The Rays arrive in a first place tie with Baltimore for the American League East, propelled by a five game winning streak. (The Rangers especailly appreciated the last three of those as they came at the expense of the Los Angeles Angels, who now trail Texas by nine games in the standings.) The Rays’ streak is the longest active winning streak among the 30 major league teams.

Texas of course has the best record in baseball at 15-4, and is the only team in baseball that has won all six series so far this season. This will be the third straight series for the Rangers against teams that were in the 2011 playoffs, as Texas took two of three from the Yankees earlier this week, and three of four from Detroit last weekend. Both Tampa and Texas have strong starting rotations, and the matchups for this series are:

Friday James Shields (3-0) vs. Matt Harrison (3-0)
Saturday Jeff Niemann (1-2) vs. Colby Lewis (2-0)
Sunday David Price (3-1) vs. Derek Holland (2-1)

All three games start at 7:05 Central. Sunday’s game will be ESPN’s national telecast. All three games are virtually sellouts as the Rangers reported after Wednesday’s finale with the Yankees that only standing room and obstructed view seats remain for all three games.

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