The Tampa Bay Rays extricated themselves from their offensive rut and will try to duplicate that effort Wednesday afternoon in the series finale against the Detroit Tigers in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The second-place club in the American League East saw its offense produce 11 hits and its entire outfield hit homers in two-RBI outings on Tuesday. The end result was a comfortable 8-1 victory over the Tigers that evened the series at one win apiece.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash called out his offense after a 3-2 loss on Monday, saying the bats needed to wake up earlier in the game and set the tone -- which is exactly what the Rays did on Tuesday.
They scored six times in the first five innings to essentially put the game on ice and end the Tigers' season-best, four-game winning streak.
"Anytime you can have an offensive outburst like that, (it) makes us feel good collectively," said center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who homered and scored twice in a three-hit showing.
Tampa Bay's scheduled Wednesday starter, Drew Rasmussen (3-1, 2.67 ERA), has won three of his last four starts and allowed only three runs and 11 hits in 21 2/3 innings in that span. He has gradually built his pitch count up into the high 80s and is going deeper into games.
In one career appearance against Detroit as a Milwaukee Brewers reliever in 2020, the right-hander retired both batters he faced, one by strikeout.
One player who won't be in the lineup behind Rasmussen is Brandon Lowe. The Rays announced that the second baseman has a stress reaction in his back and is on a three-week timeline for re-evaluation, meaning he is unlikely to resume baseball activities before mid-June.
In the hopes of winning the series in the matinee matchup, Detroit will turn to Eduardo Rodriguez (1-2, 3.72 ERA), who will make his eighth start in his first season as a Tiger.
The 29-year-old left-hander went 45-19 over his final three seasons with the Boston Red Sox before signing a five-year, $77 million contract with Detroit in November.
After a poor start on May 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 6-3 loss, Rodriguez responded with two excellent outings, getting a no-decision against the Houston Astros and beating the Baltimore Orioles. In his past 13 1/3 innings, he has allowed one run on six hits while fanning 11 and walking seven.
Over his career against the Rays in 13 starts, however, Rodriguez is 2-4 with a hefty 5.21 ERA. Tampa Bay hitters have batted .281 against him to go along with 12 homers and an .816 OPS.
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Rodriguez will have to go after the ultra-aggressive Tampa Bay hitters, citing Alex Faedo's success -- one run and four hits allowed over 5 2/3 innings -- in a no-decision in Monday's series opener.
"They were aggressive on (Faedo), like we knew they would be," Hinch said of the Rays' lineup. "They've been aggressive all year."
The Tigers tried to make a game of the Wednesday contest after falling down by five, loading the bases with no outs in the eighth, but they couldn't score.
"I do like that we put up a little bit of a fight and had an opportunity, but we'd like to see some runs pushed across," Hinch said.
After an off day Thursday, Detroit will play three-game series at Cleveland and Minnesota in a stretch of nine games on the 10-day road trip.
--Field Level Media