The Tampa Bay Rays (12-7) and Texas Rangers (15-4) will open up a three-game American League series on Friday night at Rangers Ballpark, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 ET

Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers 

The Texas Rangers are rolling in the early going in 2012

Tampa Bay hits the road after a successful 5-1 homestand that included a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels.  The Rays’ pitching staff has been leading the way, putting together a 2.03 ERA over the last nine games.  “We’re definitely playing well,” commented Rays starter James Shields.  The club has won a season-high five games in a row, and leave Tropicana Field with the best home record in all of baseball.  Tampa Bay is 4-6 on the road, with the “over” going 6-3-1 in those contests.

Shields (3-0, 2.76 ERA) had led the Rays to four wins heading into his fifth start of the season, as he comes off a 4-1 home win over the Minnesota Twins, giving up one run and five hits over eight innings.  The right-hander has tallied a 2-0 record and 1.10 ERA in two road outings, as opponents are hitting .182 against him.  In eight career games versus the Rangers, Shields is 5-2 with a 3.05 ERA, issuing nine walks and 50 strikeouts in 59 frames.

Texas continues its homestand after winning two of three games against the New York Yankees, capturing its 12th straight regular-season series going back to last year.  “We’re doing everything well,” commented Rangers manager Ron Washington.  The Rangers have definitely benefited from a strong bullpen, posting a 2.06 ERA over the first 19 games.  The club comes in with a 5.5-game lead in the AL West division, while also possessing the league’s best record.  Texas is 10-3 versus right-handed starters and the “under” is 9-2-2 in that situation.

Rangers starting pitcher Matt Harrison (3-0, 1.66 ERA) has led the club to three wins thus far in 2012, including a 10-4 road win over the Detroit Tigers last time out, giving up three runs and six hits over 7.2 innings.  The left-hander tossed six shutout innings in a 5-0 win over the Chicago White Sox in his only home effort on April 8, which continued his strong showing of a year ago at Rangers Ballpark.  He was 8-5 with a 3.80 ERA in 15 home starts in 2011.  In four games versus the Rays, Harrison is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA, holding hitters to a .176 average.

Bettors will likely back the Rangers due to their 9-2 record in Harrison’s last 11 home starts, while the Rays are 0-4 on the road versus left-handed starters.

Recommendation: Texas Rangers -135

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