Rays open homestand, look to rebound against Orioles

MLB

The Tampa Bay Rays return for a week-long homestand in St. Petersburg, Fla., after a successful road trip that ended on a sour note.

The American League East-leading Rays will open a four-game series Monday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

Rays manager Kevin Cash’s crew went 6-3 over a stretch that began in Baltimore, moved to Boston and ended in Minnesota with two consecutive losses.

“If you tell us before we’d go 6-3, a lot of people would say that’s pretty good,” Cash said Sunday after Jorge Polanco’s walk-off sacrifice fly lifted Minnesota to a 5-4 victory and a Twins series win. “But we do have a little sour taste in our mouth the way it ended today.”

Tampa Bay has won 11 of 12 while against Baltimore while averaging 7.8 runs per game and allowing Baltimore 4.1 this season.

Collin McHugh will work as the opener Monday, but left-hander Josh Fleming (9-6, 4.96 ERA) is expected to handle the bulk of the innings after surrendering 11 hits, 10 runs and six walks in Wednesday’s disastrous 20-8 defeat to the Red Sox in Boston.

Making his first career start against Baltimore, Fleming is 1-0 with no runs allowed in one relief outing — four shutout innings of hitless ball in a 7-1 home win on June 13.

The organization demoted reliever Louis Head to Triple-A Durham Sunday and recalled 2020 postseason standout infielder Mike Brosseau, who was 1-for-3 with a double and made a dazzling defensive play at second base in his return to the lineup.

Baltimore is 10-17 since the All-Star break — which includes a pair of three-game winning streaks against the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals.

The Orioles have dropped 11 straight games, are 40 games under .500 and hold an MLB-worst minus-201 run differential, which all ballooned after being swept by the Red Sox over the weekend in Boston.

Sunday’s starter was expected to be Bruce Zimmermann, but the left-hander — who last pitched on June 13 — has been sidelined with left biceps tendinitis and sprained his right ankle recently during an exercise in the weight room in Norfolk, Va., and will stay on the IL.

Manager Brandon Hyde’s projected starters over the four-game series didn’t include Zimmermann — only Matt Harvey, John Means and Spenser Watkins were announced, with Thursday’s matinee starter to be announced.

“He’s getting further tests going with the ankle,” Hyde said of Zimmermann. “The 60-day IL, it’s been 60 (days). So we can recall him at any time. I think we’re hoping that there’s a chance that he pitches before the season’s over, but we’re not sure.”

Harvey (6-11, 6.10) will make his 24th start this season in the series opener after putting together three scoreless outings — all wins — in his four July starts.

The former New York Mets right-hander has won three of his last four decisions but lost to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday in his most recent effort.

The 32-year-old Harvey, who started the 2013 All-Star Game in the Mets’ home park as a rookie, made his lone appearance against the Rays — a truly forgettable one — on May 18 this season in Baltimore.

Harvey allowed seven hits and six earned runs while retiring just five batters in his shortest 2021 outing (1 2/3 innings).

In his 23 starts, he has pitched less than five innings on 14 occasions.

–Field Level Media

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