The Tampa Bay Rays nearly captured their first World Series championship last season, falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
The Rays are now surging toward the postseason once again.
They will be looking for their eighth win in nine games and a two-game series sweep of the host Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay moved 30 games above .500 with a 3-1 win on Tuesday. Nelson Cruz led the Rays’ offense with three hits and two RBIs while playing first base for the first time in his 17-year career.
With a number of key players injured, the Rays simply continue to thrive.
“I think what’s more incredible is the amount of depth that we have that’s been really good and helping us win games,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “You never want to get to the position that we’ve been with pitcher injuries. But, to a man, all of them that come up here, they find a way to really contribute on many levels.”
The Rays’ pitching was dominant Tuesday, capped by Andrew Kittredge striking out four in two scoreless innings for his third save.
“It feels like every guy we bring up just knows how to pitch … and the stuff is there,” Tampa Bay right-hander Collin McHugh said. “(Shawn) Armstrong came out the other day and he punched out the side and you’re like, ‘Where’d he come from?’ Every guy that comes up is going to have something to show you.”
Ryan Yarbrough (7-4, 4.57 ERA) is scheduled to start Wednesday for the Rays. The left-hander is 0-1 with a 2.92 ERA in three career games (two starts) against the Phillies.
The Phillies will look to salvage a split series behind Zack Wheeler (10-8, 2.77). In Wheeler’s latest start, Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he allowed a season-high six earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Wheeler is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in his two career starts against the Rays.
“We’re frustrated, obviously,” Wheeler said after his Thursday outing. “We need to play better. Pitching, hitting, everybody needs to play a little better. … We need to take it personal and go out and finish strong and start winning some games, start playing some good baseball and be consistent.”
In four games since then, the Phillies have alternated wins and losses.
Because the New York Yankees defeated the Atlanta Braves 5-4 on Tuesday, the Phillies remain 4 1/2 games back in the National League East.
The Phillies’ offense sputtered in the opener against the Rays, going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
“Other guys have to pick it up,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “It can’t be one guy. It can’t be two guys. It has to be collectively.”
Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins were each held out of the lineup Tuesday, though both players came up as pinch hitters. Hoskins, who hit two home runs Sunday on the road against the San Diego Padres, popped out to end the game while representing the tying run.
Hoskins has been hampered by a sore groin.
The Phillies managed only six hits on Tuesday, two by Didi Gregorius.
“I thought we hit some balls well, but we weren’t rewarded on them,” Girardi said. “We just weren’t able to do much.”
–Field Level Media