Saturday in the park, a few days after the fourth of July. (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

After earning a series win on Saturday — on the heels of a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays — this afternoon, the Tampa Bay Rays will go for one last series sweep to wrap up a perfect homestand heading into the 2021 All-Star Break.

At 53-36 on the season, Tampa Bay is again 16-games over .500 after rattling off six consecutive wins to pull within 1.5 games of Boston in the division — thank you, Phillies, for the 11-2 win over the Red Sox yesterday. The Rays have now won 21 of the last 25 games at the Trop.

They hit three homers in Saturday’s contest. In the first inning, Brandon Lowe to Blue Jays starter Ross Stripling to deep right field on the very first pitch of the game — a 90 mph four-seamer which ended up 410 feet away from where it started.

Then in the third inning, in his second AB, Lowe lined an 85 mph Stripling slider 366 feet to right for his second blast of the day.

Meanwhile, also in the third inning — and sandwiched between Lowe’s homers — Gator Mike Zunino crushed a solo shot 428 feet and into the Left Field Ledge to tie the game at two apiece.

Lowe and Zunino became the first Rays’ teammates with at least 19 homers at the All-Star break since Jose Canseco and Fred McGriff in 1999.

Ryan Yarbrough got the start Saturday and allowed two runs on five hits across five innings of work. He struck out four and walked two on 104 pitches (66 strikes, 63% strike rate). It was another solid outing for the left-hander who negligibly lowered his ERA from 4.34 to 4.30. He tossed a pair of scoreless innings before surrendering a two-run homer to Marcus Semien in the third. Yarbrough settled down though and threw two more scoreless frames before his day was done. He enters the second half of the season with a 4.30 FIP, a 1.18 WHIP, and a 4.65 K/BB across 96.1 innings on the season.

The Rays bullpen was also a big part of the story yesterday and during the homestand, as the relief corps has now tossed 18 consecutive scoreless innings. Matt Wisler, Pete Fairbanks, and Diego Castillo combined for four shutout frames yesterday, striking out five while allowing just one hit and two walks.

The New What Next

Rich Hill (6-3, 3.65 ERA) will get the start in the finale, pitching opposite of Steven Matz (7-4, 4.72 ERA).

Rich Hill allowed a run on three hits and a walk over 3.2 innings against Cleveland on Monday. He struck out five of the first six batters he faced, appearing to set the tone for the game. The left-hander rolled through three scoreless frames to start the contest before the wheels began to fall off in the fourth. Ahmed Rosario doubled to right-center to open the frame, while Ramírez was hit on the foot by a pitch even though it appeared he had swung, which was ruled a check swing. Franmil Reyes followed with a single to left, scoring Rosario to put Cleveland on the board. The runners advanced into second and third on a double steal during Bradley Zimmer’s at-bat, and Bobby Bradley was hit by a pitch with two outs, loading the bases. Rays manager Kevin Cash had seen enough and pulled the none too pleased Hill for the final out of the frame. It was the veteran’s shortest appearance since tossing just three innings on May 2, yet he still managed to lower his ERA to 3.65 and his FIP to 4.52, with a 1.11 WHIP, and 3.23 K/BB across 86.1 innings on the season

Steven Matz allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits with four strikeouts and zero walks across four innings on Tuesday in Baltimore. While the left-hander generated 10 swinging strikes on only 68 pitches, he also gave up plenty of hard contact with Pedro Severino and Cedric Mullins taking him deep. Matz has now allowed seven earned runs over 6.2 frames in two starts since returning from the Injured List. He has a 4.72 ERA and a 4.09 FIP, with a 1.38 WHIP, and 3.90 K/BB across 76.1 innings on the season. Matz is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in one five-inning outing against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI), Yandy Díaz (1-1, 2B, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-6)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the the starting lineup upon and Noteworthiness are below.

Rays 7/11/21 Starting Lineup

  1. Lowe 2B
  2. Franco SS
  3. Díaz 3B
  4. Meadows DH
  5. Arozarena LF
  6. Bruján RF
  7. Choi 1B
  8. Mejía C
  9. Phillips CF
  10. Hill LHP

Noteworthiness

— The Futures Game takes place today in Colorado. Pitcher Shane Baz and infielder Xavier Edwards are the Rays’ two representatives. Vidal Bruján was also slated to attend but he was called up this week.

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