There are plenty of baseball insiders who feel that Blake Snell, Tampa Bay's left-handed ace, has been the best pitcher in the major leagues this season. Racking up 19 wins in 24 decisions will help Snell make that claim as well.
Snell (19-5, 2.06 ERA) has a chance to tie club history on Tuesday when the Rays square off against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, in the middle game of a key three-game series.
Texas will counter with right-hander Yovani Gallardo (8-5, 6.67).
Tampa Bay is still mathematically alive for a wild-card spot thanks to wins in 12 of its past 15 contests, including a 3-0 victory over the Rangers on Monday.
Snell's 19 wins lead the majors and with a win on Tuesday, Snell would tie David Price for the most single-season wins in Tampa Bay history. Price won 20 games in 2012, when he garnered the American League Cy Young Award.
Snell is more focused on keeping the Rays in the wild-card chase than any individual achievement as the season is deep in its stretch run.
"The team's going to have to win, and we're going to have to play good baseball to be able to do that against a good Texas team," Snell told MLB.com about his chance to reach the 20-win mark.
"Their lineup is great. They have a very good offensive lineup. It's going to be tough for us. I'm focused on what we can do, not individual goals. I need a team to do it, so I'm not going to focus on it."
Snell has just one career start against the Rangers; he gave up one run in 6 1/3 innings on April 16 in an 8-4 Tampa Bay win.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said Snell's drive to the 20-win mark is important for both the player and the team.
"I don't want to overplay it too much or put any added pressure on it," Cash said. "But you look at what Blake's done, you look at what some other really, really good pitchers and where they're at this year, you have to be impressed.
"Any starting pitcher that has a track record will tell you how important (it is) and how much they care to get 20 wins."
Snell has won seven consecutive decisions, which is the longest streak by a Ray since Alex Cobb racked up seven straight during the 2014 season.
He will be hard-pressed to deliver the kind of pitching performance turned in Monday by Tyler Glasnow and three relievers when they combined for a two-hitter (both given up by the starter) to beat Texas.
Gallardo will make his 19th appearance and 16th start of the season on Tuesday in the middle contest of the three-game set. He is 1-4 in last six starts after a 7-1 span across eight starts from June 23-Aug. 8.
Gallardo will pitch on five days' rest after taking the loss in the Rangers' 8-1 defeat on Wednesday at Los Angeles in which he lasted just three innings (his shortest start of 2018) and matched his season-high with six runs allowed. He is 3-3 with a 4.64 in eight career games, all starts, against Tampa Bay.
Meanwhile, Texas manager Jeff Banister said there are no plans right now for Bartolo Colon to make one more appearance in front of the home crowd during the final homestand this season at Globe Life Park.
"I'd like to be able to salute all our players," Banister said. "That's the biggest thing. Obviously, we have had some celebrations for Bartolo. If the opportunity presents itself, I'd love for our fans to be able to appreciate what they've experienced with Bartolo. Right now, nothing is scripted out."
The Rangers have five more home games remaining.