Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers Pick & Prediction APRIL 2nd 2024

The Texas Rangers have won three of their first four games in 2024, but the defending World Series champions suffered a devastating loss on Monday night.

Third baseman Josh Jung is out indefinitely with a fractured right wrist after being hit on a swing attempt during the ninth inning of Texas’ 9-3 win over the host Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rangers’ journey without their coveted corner infielder will begin Tuesday evening when Texas reconvenes with Tampa Bay in the second meeting of a three-game set in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I just feel horrible,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said after Monday’s game. “(Jung has) had such tough luck on this end as far as injuries.”

Jung hit .266 with 23 home runs and 70 RBIs throughout an All-Star 2023 regular season, during which he missed 40 games with a broken thumb. The San Antonio native shined in last year’s postseason, batting .308 with three home runs to help Texas secure the franchise’s first World Series title.

Jung had started a sizzling 7-for-17 at the plate through the Rangers’ first four regular-season games in 2024 despite missing much of spring training with a strained calf. The 26-year-old had collected three hits, including a three-run home run in the first inning, on Monday before taking an 87 mph sinker from Rays reliever Phil Maton directly to the wrist.

“Hopefully when he comes back, he continues to produce,” Texas second baseman Marcus Semien said. “But now it’s just up to us to cheer him up.”

Josh Smith replaced Jung on Monday and is among a handful of players the Rangers can utilize to fill in during Jung’s absence. Ezequiel Duran, Justin Foscue, Davis Wendzel and Matt Duffy also are potential replacements.

Monday’s loss was Tampa Bay’s second straight. The Rays have struggled to generate offense aside from the long ball — all five of their runs over the last two contests have come on home runs.

Tampa Bay was flummoxed by Texas starter Dane Dunning for most of Monday’s contest, managing just one hit through the first six innings. Richie Palacios and Jose Siri each delivered a home run in the seventh, but the Rays struck out a season-high 12 times and lost to the Rangers for the sixth straight time, including the playoffs.

“It’s a long season,” Siri said through an interpreter. “We just gotta keep (getting) out there (and) making the adjustments.”

Right-handed pitcher Zach Eflin (0-1, 9.53 ERA) will make his second start of the season for Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

Eflin was sharp throughout his Opening Day start against Toronto last Thursday until he allowed five runs in the sixth inning before being pulled.

In his lone career outing against Texas, with Philadelphia in 2017, Eflin was shelled for seven runs over four innings and took the loss.

Rangers shortstop Corey Seager is 5-for-9 with two doubles and a home run in his career against Eflin.

Texas will deploy the final pitcher in its starting rotation, left-hander Andrew Heaney (10-6, 4.15 ERA in 2023). The 11-year veteran set his career high in wins last season and appeared in five playoff games, including his victory against Arizona in Game 4 of the World Series.

Heaney made three starts during spring training, where he balanced 12 strikeouts with 11 hits, five walks and four earned runs over 10 innings.

The 32-year-old is still seeking his first win over Tampa Bay — Heaney is 0-4 with a 3.94 ERA over six career starts.

–Field Level Media

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