Exciting baseball is right around the corner for fans of Florida baseball, as the Citrus Series begins today at 6:40 PM EST. The two game series will take place in Tampa Bay and kick off a 6 game homestand for the club.
The Rays will look to build upon the three game sweep they handed to the Marlins the last time they faced off. That series took place at Tropicana Field as well, where the Rays outscored the Marlins 18-5. Going back even farther the Rays have taken eight of the last ten games in the Citrus Series.
The Marlins at 18-22 this season will attempt to use these rivalry games as some extra motivation to get back on track. Last night they snapped a 4 game losing streak which had put them under .500 for the season. No doubt they would love to start their seven game road trip with a pair of victories.
On the other hand, the Rays are 6-4 over their last ten games bringing their record to 24-17. They did just drop two of three on the road to an underwhelming Baltimore Orioles team. The Rays will attempt to gain back momentum as they have their top two starters on the mound this series.
Shane McClanahan toes the rubber in game one for the Rays. McClanahan sports a 2.33 ERA 0.86 WHIP and 65/10 K/BB ratio through his first 65 innings (8 starts) this season. That includes a 1.40 ERA in his last three starts. He started his only career game vs the Marlins last season going 5 innings, allowing just one run, and getting the win.
Opposing McClanahan is Marlins breakout starter Pablo Lopez. Lopez enters today with a NL leading 1.57 ERA. He also carries a 0.91 WHIP and 48/11 K/BB ratio in 48 innings (8 starts). For his career against Tampa Bay, Pablo Lopez owns a 1-2 record, 3.27 ERA with 21 K in 22 innings.
While the Marlins have not announced a starter yet for game 2, the Rays will send out right hander Drew Rasmussen. Acquired last season in a May trade with the Brewers, Rasmussen has been brilliant for the Rays accumulating an 8-1 record, 2.40 ERA 0.94 WHIP and 82/21 K/BB ratio. This season his ERA stands at 2.33 with his WHIP at 0.90. Rasmussen hasn't faced the Marlins as a member of the Rays. He did throw three scoreless innings over two appearances even picking up a save vs Miami as a member of the Brewers.
The Rays and Marlins both rank around the middle of the pack in most offense and pitching categories this season. One thing to pay attention to in this series is the baserunning of each team. The Rays currently rank second in the MLB with 34 stolen bases as a team on 45 attempts. Marlins catchers have combined to give up 28 stolen bases on 37 attempts (75.8% success rate for base stealers). The Marlins don't run with the same aggressiveness as the Rays, but Rays catchers allow an 80% stolen base success rate. Both of these teams struggle with throwing out base stealers, so look for this to play a big part in deciding the series.
The first of two series this season looks to be an exciting matchup with plenty of good pitching. Florida baseball fans should look forward to these two teams getting better and going at it for years to come.