The Rangers and Rays enter Wednesday night's game against one another in a tie for the top spot in the American League Wild Card race, and no one knows what to expect from there.
One thing we do know, however, is that the Rangers need lefty Derek Holland to be the best he can be down the stretch, and the Rays need the same from rookie right-hander Chris Archer.
The two will be facing each other in a highly anticipated September pennant-race barn-burner at Tropicana Field.
Holland needs to break out of a recent, poorly timed slump. He's coming off the shortest outing of his season, which came last Friday when he lasted all of three innings and 49 pitches against the A's and gave up six runs on eight hits.
The early departure made him 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA in three September starts and a .379 opponents' batting average. In 120 career starts, this was only the eighth time Holland failed to pitch more than three innings, and only the third time he did not throw at least 50 pitches.
"Despite what happened in the Oakland game, I still saw a lot of positives," Holland said. "My bullpens since then have been great, getting my mechanics in shape, finishing my pitches and hitting my spots. It just seems like I wasn't getting all the way through the ball."
Added manager Ron Washington: "I have comfidence in him. My only concern is I'd like him to improve on his command, especially his fastball. If he can put his fastball where he wants it, he's going to throw a dandy for us."
Archer, on the other hand, made his last start look easy. He earned his ninth win of the year by throwing shutout ball over six innings vs. the Twins last Friday, striking out seven and not issuing a walk.
The outing was a bounce-back effort for the 24-year-old, who has thrown the most innings this year -- 166 -- of his professional career and had suffered two rough losses prior to the rebound effort against Minnesota.
"You just want to keep maintaining the number of throws he has left in the season," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I think he looked sharp in his last outing. His fastball command is getting better, and the changeup was good last time. I don't have any preconceived notions other than to watch him closely."
Archer doesn't seem to mind.
"I don't think there's any difference in velocity or my stuff," Archer said. "I guess I've thrown more innings, but that's how it is when you're younger. You keep throwing 20 or 30 percent more, but you're not weaker. I threw 160 innings last year, and I'm at 166."
Rangers: Homers finally happen
Texas had gone homerless in seven straight games, the longest drought since going eight games without a homer from Aug. 10-17, 1990, prior to Tuesday, but the Rangers erupted with a trio of dingers. Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Leonys Martin all went deep in the Rangers' 7-1 win.
• Outfielder Alex Rios stole second base in the fourth inning of Monday night's game and is perfect in 11 steal attempts for Texas and 18-for-18 overall since the All-Star break.
• Rangers relievers have allowed nine runs over 23 1/3 innings in their last six games after allowing two runs in their previous 15 innings over five games.
Rays: Myers can make history
Outfielder Wil Myers leads American League rookies in homers (13) and RBIs (49) this season. Myers can play a maximum of 88 games this season because of his June 18 callup, and he has a chance to become the first player ever to lead AL rookies in homers and RBIs while playing in less than 90 games.
• The Rays have achieved a winning record in their sixth straight season. On only two other occasions has a team achieved this following 10 straight losing seasons: the Philadelphia A's had 10 straight losing seasons (1915-24) followed by nine straight winning seasons (1925-33), and the Philadelphia/Kansas City A's lost for 15 years (1953-67) followed by Oakland's nine winning seasons (1968-76).
• When Archer goes six or more innings, the Rays are 11-1. When he doesn't last a full six, they are 1-7.
• Rangers reliever Neal Cotts has pitched 10 1/3 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts over his last 12 games since permitting a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning of the Aug. 16 game against Seattle, his second loss. His season ERA is at 1.09.
• With Alex Cobb's 20th start of the year on Monday, the Rays have six pitchers with at least 20 starts apiece: Cobb, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Roberto Hernandez and Archer. Tampa Bay is the seventh team in AL history to have six pitchers with 20 starts each.