Could the Rays get swept?

Posted by Nathanael Kurant on Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 10:58 AM

Has there ever been a worst best team?

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At 96-66, the standings will tell you that the Rays are the best team in the American League. They finished the season with a better record than Texas, Minnesota, and even those Bronx Bombers, which sets up home field advantage beginning Wednesday with a divisional showdown against the Rangers at the Trop.

If you are the Texas Rangers, was there a better scenario than the less-than-daunting Rays?

The Rays were supposed to tune-up for the playoffs by closing the regular season against three last place teams. Instead, the Rays were shut out by Kevin Millwood of Baltimore, who boosted his record to  4-16, and Kansas City’s Bruce Chen. On Sunday, they didn’t score a run against Sean O’Sullivan and Royals pitching until the ninth inning.

If the Rays offense is struggling against that caliber of pitching, would it be surprising to see Texas fans carrying brooms into the park on Saturday in Arlington after the one-two punch of Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson?

Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria are the obvious bright spots in Joe Maddon’s lineup, but a look down the rest of the order doesn’t inspire much confidence.

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Around the infield, either Dioner Navarro (.194) or Kelly Shoppach (.196) will likely start Game 1 behind the plate, and Carlos Pena (.196) will be penciled in at first. Right-handers Sean Rodriguez (.251) and Jason Bartlett (.254) will be the middle infielders, with Longoria (.294) at the hot corner.

The outfield will have Crawford (.307) in left, B.J. Upton (.237) in center, and likely switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.238) in right. Pick a name out of one of those new plaid-billed hats for the designated hitter. The best average left on the roster is John Jaso, right, at .263, but Dan Johnson has had a knack for big home runs, so maybe his .198 average gets dropped into the DH hole.

It’s not quite the 1927 Yankees. It’s not even the 2010 Orioles. Seriously.

Meanwhile, the Rangers have a potent offense. A third of their starting lineup is above .300, including former Ray Josh Hamilton and his league-leading .359 average. Add in that Game 1 starter Cliff Lee is 4-0 with a career 1.56 ERA in postseason play, and the best team on the field Wednesday may not be the home team.

Game 1 is Wednesday at 1:37pm at Tropicana Field. Tickets are reportedly sold out.

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