The Tampa Bay Rays begin a 3-game set at home against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, and the series should be a good litmus test for both clubs as they look to prove they belong with the top teams in their respective leagues.
The Rays enter the first game of the series sitting at 31-23, a half game back of second place in the AL East, while the Cardinals are 32-23 and a half game back of the Brewers for 1st place in the NL Central.
The Cardinals find themselves 7-3 over their last 10 games while the Rays have gone 5-5 during that same stretch. On the season, the Cardinals run differential sits at +54 and the Rays have gotten by with +11. St. Louis appears to be going on a run here, while the Rays are treading water a bit while they await the return of some injured contributors.
Each team features two of the hottest players in baseball, with Cardinals slugger Paul Goldschmidt winning NL Player of the Month and Shane McClanahan posting an ERA of 1.15 with 39 Ks in 31.1 innings of work.
There are some former players on each team, as Randy Arozarena gets to face his former club and the prospect he was traded for, Matthew Libreatore.
The probable pitchers are Dakota Hudson and Jeffrey Springs, TBD and Corey Kluber, and Miles Mikolas and Shane McClanahan. The rotation matchups may be the most interesting storylines entering this series. The Cardinals tend to mash lefties and soft tossers, making the Rays trio of starters interesting matchups for them. The Rays will face Hudson who is up and down, a depth arm or bullpen game, and Mikolas, who has been struggling as of late.
If Tampa Bay can grab a series win here against the streaking Cardinals, it will be a nice statement win for the month of June against another top team in baseball.