The hottest team in Major League Baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays, will look to continue their torrid pace when they host the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday afternoon in search of their 14th win in a 15-game stretch.
“I think when things are clicking on both sides, I think it could be a lot of fun in the dugout,” said Austin Meadows, who drove in four runs in Thursday’s 7-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. “Especially with the run we’ve been on, we know the ups and downs of the game, and we know how hard it can be. You just try to enjoy the highs and learn from the lows.
“It’s been a fun streak we’ve been on, and we just continue to try to have fun each and every day.”
The Rays are a scorching 19-6 in May after a bit of a slow start.
“They don’t take this for granted,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of the team’s run in May. “They know that they have got to come to the ballpark and work and perform. Fortunately, we’ve got a group of guys that take that mindset every day.”
The Rays will hand the ball to left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who will be making his seventh start. Yarbrough is 2-3 with a 4.27 earned run average.
For Yarbrough’s career against the Phillies, he’s 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two games, one start.
Saturday’s game is the first of a two-game set, with neither team playing Friday.
For the Rays, Friday’s off day was just the fourth in franchise history. It gave the players a much-needed day off, though a hot team likely would rather be playing.
“It is strange,” Cash said. “But we will take it.”
After completing a split of a four-game series on the road against the Miami Marlins, the inconsistent Phillies will send their top starter to the mound.
Enter Zack Wheeler.
Aaron Nola was the Opening Day starter and projected as the Phillies’ ace, but Wheeler has been their best pitcher with a 4-2 record and 2.38 ERA in 10 starts.
In Wheeler’s last start, he gave up three hits, one run and struck out 12 in 7 1/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox in a 6-2 win on Sunday.
Wheeler has been able to throw all four of his pitches for strikes with his fastball reaching into the mid-to-high 90s.
“I think my ball’s a little more true this year,” Wheeler said. “I’m a little more behind it, so maybe the spin rate — I don’t even pay attention to that stuff — maybe it’s up a little bit. Fastball command’s been there for the most part. But it’s mostly true, so I think it plays a little better.”
Wheeler has one career start against the Rays. He is 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA against them.
Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto (hand) is eligible to come off the injured list for Saturday’s game, but it’s unclear if he’ll be in the lineup. All manager Joe Girardi said was that Realmuto had “another good day” on Thursday. Shortstop Didi Gregorius (elbow) and outfielder Bryce Harper (forearm) remain on the injured list.
Jean Segura also surprisingly was held out of the lineup in Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Marlins.
“Just a manager’s decision,” Girardi said. “And I’m not going to share anything, who’s available, who’s not available because I think it’s somewhat unfair to us.”
–Field Level Media