The Rays started off inter league play with a 3 game set against their cross state rival The Florida Marlins on May 18-20. The Rays were coming off of a sweep of the Rangers in Orlando and were looking to keep the streak going, meanwhile the Marlins were ending a 10 game road trip in that they started 2-5. The Rays were feeling pretty good about the series at home and should have after the sweep and having a struggling team come into town. The Series did not go the way the Rays expected as they were swept out of their own building in convincing fashion.
The Rays are again coming off of a nice series in which they took two of three from the Blue Jays and could easily swept the series had their bullpen not blown a five run lead in the ninth inning of the first game. The Rays bats were on fire in Toronto, especially Carl Crawford who went 8/16, scored and drove in seven, and tacked on three stolen bases. The Rays pitching staff has still been up and down and the bullpen looked horrid in the first game against the Blue Jays.
The Marlins are coming into the game having won three of their last four. The Marlins pitching staff have not given up more than four runs only once in their last fourteen games and the hitting is starting to come around for them as well. The Marlins have also got a boost from a place that no one would expect, Byung-Hyun Kim. Kim, who was traded from the Rockies to the Marlins for Jorge Julio just before the first series with Rays, has gone 2-0 and has only given up 7 runs in his last 22.2 innings. The Marlins are still being led on offense by Cabrera and Ramirez, but are getting contributions from others as well.
The Rays will send JP Howell to the mound in the first game to match up against Kim. Howell looked great in his first start after being called up from Durham, giving up only one run in eight innings while striking out seven and walking none. Hopefully Howell can keep it up and add another solid starter to the rotation and help the Rays keep momentum going. The second game will feature a match up of Aces as Jamie Shields takes the mound against Dontrelle Willis and the final game will feature Andy Sonnenstine against Sergio Mitre, who has been on fire recently.
What to Watch for:
Can the Rays bullpen keep up what they did in the last two games of the Blue Jays series or will they regress to that ninth inning of the first game of that series. Gary Glover has emerged as an 8th inning guy who can get the job done and hopefully he keeps it up.
Miguel Olivo was the one who spiked Josh Paul in the previous Marlins/Rays series, which caused Paul to go on the DL for 4-6 weeks. Olivo was not hit by the Rays pitchers afterwards.....
The return of Akinori Iwamura to the lineup. Aki, who has been out for a couple days due to taking a ball to the eye will return to the lineup this weekend. Aki will bat lead off and will start at 3B...