What's new: After splitting four rugged games with the Rays at the Trop and losing two of three at Kansas City in a 4-13 tailspin, the Rangers righted themselves from what could have been a massively disappointing season and won their last seven (three over the Astros, four over the Angels) to finish 91-71 and tied with the Rays.
The pitching has been better, especially the bullpen anchored by RHP Joe Nathan, and the offense, snapping out of an extended power outage, is always threatening, led by 3B Adrian Beltre, with plenty of support from 2B Ian Kinsler, RF Alex Rios, SS Elvis Andrus and C A.J. Pierzynski. Plus, DH Nelson Cruz, who hits the Rays and starter David Price well, is expected to be in the lineup after serving his PED suspension.
The key to their recent run, however, has been a re-emphasis on the running game, which can be particularly vexing to the Rays. They have 13 steals in 14 tries during the seven-game streak.
"They showed heart, fight, guts, any other adjective you want to find," manager Ron Washington said of his team. "We knew we had the games in us. We just had to get them out. …
"We have to keep our game elevated against (the Rays). We're not going to change anything. We're going to keep playing Texas Rangers baseball."
Adding to the challenge is a crowd that is usually large and loud. "Hopefully," Rays 3B Evan Longoria said, "we can quiet a really noisy stadium."
Key stat: Sunday was the Rangers' MLB-leading 50th come-from-behind win, including in six of their past nine wins.
Connections: Rangers RHP Matt Garza was a Ray 2008-10 and was '08 ALCS MVP, coaches Dave Anderson (Gibbs High) and Dave Magadan (Jesuit) are Tampa Bay area products. … Rays RHP Jamey Wright was a Ranger in 2007-08, OF Freddy Guzman briefly in 2006-07, RHP Josh Lueke a 2007 draftee.
Series history: Rangers lead 4-3 this season, 81-65 overall, 48-27 at home, 6-3 in postseason (though 1-3 at home).
Marc Topkin, Times staff writer