Rays, Angels seek momentum as series begins

MLB

A pair of scuffling squads look to gather some momentum as the Tampa Bay Rays oppose the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of a three-game weekend series on Friday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Los Angeles has lost three consecutive games and six of nine overall. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay had dropped a season-high seven in a row before salvaging the final two of a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox.

A 1-0 win Thursday in the series finale moved the Rays a half-game ahead of Boston atop the American League East standings.

Manuel Margot scored the lone run for Tampa Bay on a wild pitch with two outs in the ninth inning. The Rays had just two hits on a night when Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta departed following 6 2/3 hitless innings.

“Odd way to win a ballgame, but we’ll take it,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “To win a close ballgame does feel good. We’ve lost our share here lately of close ones, and it’s nice for the guys to feel a win afterwards.”

The Angels took the first three of four at home against the Detroit Tigers from June 17-19 before a 5-3 loss in 10 innings on Sunday. Los Angeles then dropped both games in a two-game home set against the San Francisco Giants, falling 5-0 on Tuesday and 9-3 in 13 innings on Wednesday.

Shohei Ohtani pitched six innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts on Wednesday to help the Angels force extra innings in a 1-1 tie. After the Giants scored in the top of the 12th, the Angels answered with a run to extend the game before coughing up seven runs in the 13th.

“I’m really pleased with our guys. I mean, that was a tremendous effort from beginning to end,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to get better in situations, obviously, against good teams, and you’ve got to take advantage of those moments, and we did not.”

Tampa Bay will send right-hander Andrew Kittredge (5-1, 1.27 ERA) and left-hander Josh Fleming (6-4, 3.59) to the mound Friday. Kittredge will open, and Fleming will be the bulk reliever.

Fleming has allowed five runs in two of his past three outings, including a 6-5 extra-innings loss at Seattle on Saturday. He allowed seven hits and walked two while punching out five in 6 1/3 innings.

The 25-year-old has faced the Angels once this season, tossing five innings of three-run ball on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts in an 8-3 win on May 6.

Los Angeles will start right-hander Griffin Canning (5-4, 5.07 ERA), who is coming off a pair of solid starts. He has allowed just three runs while striking out eight over his past 11 2/3 innings. Canning gave up two runs on three hits in a five-inning no-decision at Oakland on June 16.

The 25-year-old has faced the Rays just once in his career. He gave up four runs on six hits while striking out seven in a 6-5 loss at Tampa Bay in his rookie season on June 16, 2019.

–Field Level Media

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