The Rays come into this two-game series with the best record in baseball at 14-5, while the A’s also stand alone in first place in their division at 12-8.
The series features the two best pitching staffs in the American League to this point. The A’s lead the American League in team ERA (2.93) with the Rays close behind (3.21).
The difference in the two teams thus far has been that the Rays have consistently hit, while the A’s offense has been unpredictable. Tampa Bay leads all of baseball with 113 runs scored.
OAK: Ben Sheets (1-1, 2.74)
TB: Wade Davis (1-1, 2.65)
The first game features the A’s No. 1 starter against the Rays’ fifth. Both have looked good in the early going, but Davis has struggled with his control at times. The Rays will be looking for the rookie to put it all together in this one.
Pitcher vs. Batter: Only one player has faced the opposing team’s pitcher before in his career, with Davis being a rookie and Sheets having pitched in the NL. That player is Pat Burrell, who is 7-for-17 (.412) lifetime against Sheets, including two home runs.
OAK: Dallas Braden (3-0, 2.77)
TB: James Shields (2-0, 3.96)
Game two is a matchup between two very good young pitchers. Shields has been consistent thus far but needs to step up as the Rays' ace and go deeper into games.
Braden endeared himself to Rays fans last week when he cussed out A-Rod for acting like an entitled rich kid. The lefty dominated the Yankees in an A’s win that day.
The Rays have had a hard time against lefties not named Jon Lester. Look for Gabe Kapler in the lineup on Wednesday as Reid Brignac will sit.
Pitcher vs. Batter: Kapler is 3-for-7 against Braden, while Carl Crawford is just 2-for-13. B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett have homered off Braden in the past. Current A’s players are 9-for-34 (.265) against Shields with no home runs. Kurt Suzuki has seen him the most and is 4-for-14.
1. Rajai Davis – CF
2. Daric Barton – 1B
3. Ryan Sweeney – RF
4. Kurt Suzuki – C
5. Eric Chavez/Jake Fox – DH
6. Kevin Kouzmanoff – 3B
7. Gabe Gross – LF
8. Adam Rosales/Eric Patterson – 2B
9. Cliff Pennington – SS
Tampa Bay Rays
1. Jason Bartlett – SS
2. Carl Crawford – LF
3. Ben Zobrist – RF
4. Evan Longoria – 3B
5. Carlos Pena – 1B
6. B.J. Upton – CF
7. Pat Burrell – DH
8. Reid Brignac/Sean Rodriguez – 2B
9. Dioner Navarro – C
* It will be the Rays' first matchup with an AL West team. Last season Tampa Bay went a disappointing 12-21 against the West, including 4-6 against Oakland.
* Former Ray Gabe Gross will make his return to Tampa Bay after being released this offseason. He’s a .269 career hitter at Tropicana Field.
* The Rays come in with 21 steals as a team, tops in the majors. The A’s counter with a good catcher in Kurt Suzuki, making for an intriguing matchup on the basepaths.
* The A’s have a clear advantage in the bullpen, although the Rays’ pen has settled down a bit after some early meltdowns.