The Tampa Bay Rays have gotten very comfortable on the road this season, and they’ll look to improve upon their impressive 19-11 record away from the Trop when they visit Cleveland on Friday, for a three-game series against the Indians.
At 38-30, the AL East leading Rays are eight games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2013 season after winning six of their last seven and seven of their last 10. Joey Butler continues to be a big factor for the Rays with 10 multi-hit games since May 24th, while Evan Longoria has quietly put together a seven game hitting streak. Meanwhile Kevin Kiermaier has raised his batting average 16 points (to .252) after going 9-24 over his last seven games.
The Indians (31-34, 4-6 in their last 10 games) rebounded from a humbling 17-0 defeat to edge the Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Thursday. Cleveland is led by Jason Kipnis, who has hit safely in 13 straight games overall and 22 consecutive home contests, while Michael Brantley has at least a hit in 14 of his last 15 games. Expect Michael Bourn in the lineup this weekend, as he has appealed his one-game suspension — announced Thursday — for making contact with an umpire on Tuesday.
The Rays will start Nathan Karns, Erasmo Ramirez, and Alex Colome in the series. Karns (3-3, 3.67 ERA) is winless in his last five starts, although he allowed just one run over six innings last Sunday. The 27 year-old righty, who boasts a 1-0 record and 2.38 ERA in four road starts, has limited opponents to two or fewer runs in nine of his 13 starts this season. Ramirez (6-2, 4.45 ERA) continued his recent strong work, shutting out the Nationals over six innings to earn his sixth win in seven starts. However, Colome (3-3, 5.14 ERA) lasted just two innings in an ugly loss to the Nationals, where he gave up six runs on seven hits and three walks.
Boding in the favor of the Rays, Cleveland is 6-15 in series openers this season with five of those victories coming on the road.
Carlos Carrasco: Carrasco (8-5, 4.38 ERA) has won four of his last five starts, although he yielded eight runs over 9-2/3 innings in the past two outings. His next win will set a career high after recording eight victories from 2011 and again in 2014, and he has walked only 18 in 74 innings this season with 85 strikeouts. Carrasco leans heavily on a 96 mph four-seam fastball that boasts natural sinking action, and an 89 mph slider generates a good number of ground balls. He also features a worm-killer of an 89 mph change-up that generates an extreme number of ground balls, a 95 mph sinker, and a hard 83 mph curveball that also generates an extreme number of grounders. The 28 year-old righty is 1-2 with a 3.10 ERA in four games (three starts) against the Rays. Key matchup: David DeJesus (2-8, 2B).
Corey Kluber: Per Rotowire, Kluber (3-7) allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks over seven innings in Tuesday’s loss to Seattle. He also struck out four. The reigning Cy Young Award winner isn’t going to blow you away with his fastball, rather he pounds all quadrants of the zone and tries force weak contact. A new weapon, Kluber has started to throw his fastball at the top of the zone for whiffs (ala Brad Boxberger, Jake Odorizzi, and Jake McGee).
Key matchups: David DeJesus (3-9, 2 2B, RBI), Logan Forsythe (1-3), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2, 3B, BB), Evan Longoria (3-8).
— Only three teams have more wins than the Rays — Cardinals (43), Astros (40), Pirates (39).