The pressure of holding the AL East lead may be getting to the young Rays, as they look to bounce back from a loss on Friday night.
Tampa Bay Rays at Florida Marlins
Tampa Bay is 23-11 on the road, but have lost five of their last seven and must win the final two games of this series to avoid their first losing road trip of the season. The Rays are also just 4-6 in interleague play this year and have lost four of their last five. Part of their recent struggles has been the leadoff spot, as players that have been placed at the top of the lineup card have combined for just a .244 batting average and .339 on-base percentage. “I’m just looking for the right slot,” said manager Joe Maddon. “It’d be nice to really feel good about No. 1.” Tampa Bay went 10-2 against Florida the past two seasons, but are currently just 1-3 against them this season. During Maddon’s tenure, the Rays are 17-11 against the Marlins overall.
Rays SP Jeff Niemann is 6-1 with a 2.83 ERA in 13 starts this season, as he will be making his second straight start versus the Marlins. His last start came at home against Florida at home, picking up a 6-1 loss, tossing six innings and allowing five earned runs. It was his first loss of the season, snapping a seven-game win streak. “You just have to evaluate what happened, try not to get too far into it,” Niemann said about his last start. The right-hander is a perfect 4-0 with a 3.02 ERA in six starts on the road this season. Niemann has been incredibly economical in his starts this season, throwing an average of just 13.9 pitchers per inning, fewest in the majors.
Florida bounced back in its second series of its current six-game homestand with a 7-4 win over Tampa Bay, after getting swept in a three-game set by the Texas Rangers. The Marlins scored all the runs they would need last night in the first inning, paced by rookie OF Mike Stanton’s first grand slam of his career. “I didn’t really think it was going out off the bat at first because the wind was really swirling out there,” said Stanton. Through 10 interleague games this season, Florida owns a 4-6 record and are batting a combined .264 with 12 home runs and 54 RBI. The Marlins currently own the best winning percentage among NL teams in interleague play, going 124-105 (.541) all-time.
Marlins SP Chris Volstad is 4-6 with a 4.25 ERA in 13 starts this season. The right-hander has posted a 2-3 mark and 2.77 ERA at home this season. He faced off against Niemann just six days ago, which could prove to be an advantage with the Rays’ hitters fresh in his mind. “It can be good and bad, I guess,” Volstad said. “You have a little plan on how to attack guys now because of it.” The second-year starter is making his sixth career interleague start, going 2-2 with a 5.53 ERA. This year he has gone 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA. Tonight will be his third career start against the Rays, going 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in those games.
Bettors will take note in Tampa Bay’s 2-0 record this season after three or more consecutive losses (+200), even though the Rays are just 18-19 in that situation the last three years (-240). Florida finds itself as a home underdog of +125 to +150 for just the third time this season, dropping both of those contests (-200).