Rays Travel to Cleveland to Face the AL Central Leading Indians
At the beginning of the season neither Tampa nor Cleveland was given much chance to succeed, but 30+ games into the season both are sitting atop their respective divisions, and both teams are 7-3 in their past ten games.
It’s hard to say which team is the bigger surprise. Tampa was left for dead after a well-documented gutting of their bullpen and the lost of two of their top players in Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. An 0-6 start did nothing to quell the doubters but their 20-8 run since then has the baseball world wide awake and realizing this isn’t a team to be trifled with.
The Cleveland Indians were perennial rebuilders but have found new life behind some old stars (Travis Hafner, himself left for dead on the side of the road by most baseball experts) and not-so-old (Grady Sizemore, long-removed but apparently healthy for the first time since Mid May of 2010 after injuring his knee and subsequent micro-fracture surgery. For Cleveland however it has been a very productive offense that has them fourth in the American league in runs scored, RBI and third in home runs and batting average.
Their pitching hasn’t been to shabby either. Led by Fausto Carmona (3-3, 3.83), Justin Masterson (5-0, 2.11) and Josh Tomlin (4-1, 2.43) the Cleveland pitching staff is also at or near the top of the AL in runs allowed, ERA and home runs allowed.
Tampa rolls into Progressive Field on an eight game road winning streak (a franchise record) and a patchwork offensive lineup many thought would stay at or near the bottom of the league. By now Sam Fuld‘s acrobatic defensive plays are a regular on ESPN, but it is less-heralded players like Casey Kotchman (.355 BA) and Matt Joyce (.351 BA) that have been picking the team up offensively.
Tonights pitching matchup features the Tribe’s hottest young pitching star in Tomlin versus what for Tampa represents a grizzled veteran in Andy Sonnanstine as the early season’s two biggest surprise teams face off in an important series for both teams.
The Rays would like nothing better than to extend their road win streak to nine as a welcome home gift to the Indians, who return from a recent six game road trip against the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels.
Game time is 7:05pm.