The Milwaukee Brewers, who have taken a dip downward, aim to start breaking out of their funk when they host the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game series.
The Brewers have dropped six of their past seven games to fall out of first place in the National League Central. They are 1-5 since trading long-time closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres.
Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes doesn't think pinning his club's troubles on a trade is the right way to go.
"That's the easy route, to make excuses for the way we played this last weekend and blame it on someone else," Burnes said of the Brewers dropping two of three to the Cincinnati Reds. "But we've got to point the fingers at ourselves here. Get back on track. Play better baseball."
Milwaukee's slump occurred while the St. Louis Cardinals were winning seven straight games to take over first place in the division. The Brewers stand fourth in the NL wild-card standings, and only the top three finishers will earn a playoff spot. Milwaukee has reached the postseason in each of the past four seasons.
The Rays currently possess one of the American League's three wild-card spots and recently broke out of their own slump.
Tampa Bay has won four of its past five games after dropping eight of its previous 10.
The Rays took three of four in Detroit to start a six-game trip. They were blanked for 8 2/3 innings on Sunday before scoring seven runs in the ninth for a 7-0 win over the Tigers. The first two runs of the inning crossed on bases-loaded walks.
"When you go up there in the ninth inning of a scoreless game, your first impulse is to do something big," Rays manager Kevin Cash said postgame. "It isn't easy to still have the patience to lay off close pitches, but that's what we were able to do. That turned into a fun inning."
Brandon Lowe added a two-run single, Randy Arozarena delivered a two-run double and Roman Quinn had an RBI single to finish off the outburst.
"I think we're taking better at-bats with guys on base," Lowe said. "I think we're really starting to play some really good Rays baseball."
Tampa Bay was swept in a two-game home series against the Brewers in late June, falling 5-3 in each contest. The since-departed Hader got the save for Milwaukee in both games.
Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who starts Tuesday, returned from a right ankle injury that sidelined him a month to strike out 10 in five innings against Tampa Bay on June 28. He allowed one run, two hits and no walks while improving to 2-0 with an 0.79 ERA in two career starts against the Rays.
Woodruff (9-3, 3.49 ERA) is unbeaten since his return, going 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings over seven starts.
In his last outing, the two-time All-Star allowed three runs (two earned) and eight hits over 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
The Rays will go with right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis (1-1, 9.00 ERA) as their opener on Tuesday, with left-hander Ryan Yarbrough expected to work the bulk of the innings, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Yacabonis, claimed off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Thursday, will be making his second appearance for the Rays. He has one career appearance against the Brewers, giving up one run over 3 1/3 innings in 2017 as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
--Field Level Media