The Tampa Bay Rays appeared ready to make a strong postseason push after beginning August with three straight wins over American League-best Houston, but their fortunes have instead nosedived since returning home. Already guaranteed a losing record on their nine-game homestand, the Rays attempt to break out of their offensive malaise Saturday when they host the third of four games against the Cleveland Indians.
Tampa Bay fell to 2-5 since returning from Houston following Friday’s 5-0 setback and has been shut out four times during the homestand while scoring no more than four runs in any game. The Rays also surrendered their slim advantage over Seattle and Minnesota for the second and final wild-card spot in the AL, falling one-half game behind them. Edwin Encarnacion broke open a pitchers’ duel in a five-run fifth inning with a solo shot and Carlos Carrasco took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Friday as Cleveland halted a stretch in which it had lost four of five. Jay Bruce went 2-for-4 in his first start since arriving in a trade Thursday from the New York Mets for the Indians, who maintained their 3 1/2-game lead over the Twins in the AL Central.
TV: 6:10 p.m. ET, STO (Cleveland), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Mike Clevinger (5-4, 4.00 ERA) vs. Rays RH Chris Archer (8-6, 3.80)
Clevinger returns to the rotation after a brief spell in the bullpen and will make his first start since July 31 in Boston, which tagged him for five runs on seven hits and four walks over three innings in a loss. The 26-year-old Florida native began July by allowing a total of one earned run and eight hits over his first 18 innings before surrendering 10 earned runs and 16 hits across his final 7 1/3 frames of the month. Clevinger retired the only batter he faced on May 16 in his only career appearance versus the Rays.
Archer was denied a chance for a second straight win and settled for a no-decision Sunday against Milwaukee despite yielding only a solo home run among the three hits he allowed in six frames. The outing marked a personal-best 15th straight turn in which the two-time All-Star was able to log six innings and the 11th time over that stretch he recorded a quality start. Encarnacion is 8-for-50 with three homers versus Archer, who took the loss in Cleveland on May 15 after getting tagged for six earned runs over five frames.
1. The Indians have scored 418 runs in their 61 wins (6.9 per game) but only 124 runs in their 52 losses (2.4).
2. Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria left Friday’s contest in the sixth inning with a left thumb contusion.
3. Cleveland 2B Jason Kipnis, who left Thursday night’s game early with a tight hamstring, is expected to test it again prior to the start of Saturday’s contest.
PREDICTION: Rays 3, Indians 2