Francisco Mejía and Josh Fleming ahead of the series opener on Monday. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After scoring 14 runs on 17 hits — both season-high totals — against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays will look to cap their six-game road trip with another sweep tonight. At 10-8 on the season, Tampa Bay can also move three games above .500 for the first time this season with a win.

It should also be noted that with a win tonight, the Rays would sweep a multi-series road trip for just the second time in franchise history. The only other that happened was from July 18-23 of 2014 when they went 5-0 on a trip to Minnesota and St. Louis.

While the Rays offense came through in a huge way, ultimately going 5-16 wRISP (.313 wRISP batting average) and scoring four two-out runs, they also struck out just five times. They have also scored at least four runs in six consecutive games.

Superlatives aside, they received some bad news over the last few days — and no, I’m not quite sure how I missed these notes, but alas, I did — as both Colin McHugh (back strain) and Cody Reed (left thumb weakness) have been placed on the Injured List. Reed’s IL placement is retroactive to April 17th. McHugh’s roster spot has been filled by RHP Chris Mazza, who was recently optioned to the alternate site, in Port Charlotte, while Brent Honeywell Jr. was recalled from Port Charlotte to fill in for Reed. Honeywell pitched in last night’s game.

Reed dealt with hand and finger issues last season after being acquired from Cincinnati, limiting him to just two games with the Rays. This season he has pitched in five contests, making four scoreless appearances before coughing up two runs (one earned) in the 10th inning of the extra-inning loss to Texas last Thursday.

The left-hander described the issue as “weakness and numbness in my hand,” which could be a mild form of thoracic outlet syndrome — something that affected his grip strength and required a Botox injection during the offseason.

Rays manager Kevin Cash says Reed is being examined by doctors in St Petersburg.

It’s an issue that he’s tried to manage — and give him a lot of credit. He worked hard, managed it well in the offseason. That feeling of numbness, or not being able to feel certain parts of his pitching hand, just crept up.

— Kevin Cash

Meanwhile, it would appear that the Rays should be getting a player back sooner than later. Ryan Sherriff, who was placed on the Restricted List on April 3, has returned to the organization. Sherriff will head to minor league camp in order to get himself back into pitching shape. The southpaw has thrown just one-third of an inning for Tampa Bay this season, although he held opposing offenses scoreless across 9-2/3 frames last season. He also tossed two scoreless innings against Los Angeles in a pair of World Series appearances.

The New What Next

Michael Wacha (1-1, 4.20 ERA) will make his fourth start for Tampa Bay tonight, pitching opposite of Jakob Junis (1-0, 1.50 ERA).

Michael Wacha was fantastic across six frames on Friday, allowing just two base runners on a walk and a hit. The right-hander didn’t allow a runner to get past first and struck out nine (all swinging) batters — matching the highest total of his career — on 93 pitches (60 strikes, 65% strike rate). He saw an uptick in his fastball velocity, as his heater touched 96 mph, and he coaxed 18 swings and misses (19% SwStr%) on eight four-seam fastballs, five cutters, four changeups, and one curveball. Wacha was able to lower his ERA from 7.00 to 4.20 on the season, while he now has collected 20 strikeouts across three appearances (15 innings, two starts) to start the season. Wacha is 3-2 with a 3.53 ERA in seven career starts against the Royals.

Jake Junis allowed two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six across five innings on Thursday against the Blue Jays. The right-hander put together another strong outing after struggling through his first four big-league campaigns. Across four appearances (two starts), Junis has a 5.00 K/BB to accompany a 1.50 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He relies primarily on an 80 mph slider and a 91 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in a 91 mph sinker. Junis is 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA across five career outings (four starts) against the Rays. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (2-8, 2B, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (3-9, 2B), Brandon Lowe (4-7, 2 RBI), Joey Wendle (2-2, 2B, RBI)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.

Rays 4/21/21 Starting Lineup

  1. Meadows LF
  2. Tsutsugo DH
  3. Wendle 3B
  4. B. Lowe 2B
  5. Díaz 1B
  6. Kiermaier CF
  7. Mejía C
  8. Adames SS
  9. Phillips RF
  10. Wacha RHP

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