….and we’ll all float on okay. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

Coming off their most successful home stand of the season, the Tampa Bay Rays head to Houston where they will start a three-game series against the Astros on Friday. Tampa Bay finished the home stand 7-3 against the Padres, Rangers and Red Sox.

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Although Tampa Bay resides in last place in the AL East, the ball club has gone 8-3 over the past 11 contests, knocking off likely playoff-contenders Texas and Boston.

Houston looks to continue its own surge toward contention in the AL Wild-Card race. Standing four games behind the Orioles, the Astros are 34-28 at Minute Maid Park, where they will play the next six games. They are coming off their fifth victory in six road contests.

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Kevin Cash will throw Drew Smyly (6-11, 4.88 ERA), Blake Snell (4-6, 3.17 ERA), and Chris Archer (7-17, 4.11 ERA) over the next three days. A.J. Hitch will counter Mike Fiers (9-6, 4.41 ERA), Dallas Keuchel (8-12, 4.64 ERA), and Doug Fister (12-8, 3.59 ERA).

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Rays Series Starters

Smyly surrendered four runs on five hits (including two homers) and a walk while striking out seven Rangers over 6-2/3 innings on Sunday. It was the eighth time in 24 appearances that the southpaw served up multiple homers in a game, although this was the first time he posted a win in one of those outings. Smyly has now won four consecutive starts thanks in part to the Rays’ 6.8 runs per game during that stretch. His 3.03 ERA and 3.63 K/BB over 32-2/3 innings (five games) shouldn’t be overlooked.

Snell went just 3-2/3 innings on Monday, allowing two runs on four hits and five walks. He struck out three. The rookie southpaw has struggled of late, allowing 13 free passes over his last three starts, and lasting just 10-1/3 total innings.

Archer allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks over five innings on Tuesday, striking out six. The 109 pitches thrown after five frames ended his night early, marking his shortest stint since May 22. Be that as it may, the righty continues to pitch much better in the second half of the season, owning a 2.94 ERA with 61 strikeouts over 53 innings since the All-Star Break. Archer’s collected five quality starts over his last seven games — allowing him to lower his ERA to 4.11, the lowest its been since Opening Day.

Astros Series Starters

Fiers allowed an earned run on five hits and a walk over seven innings on Saturday, striking out seven. The veteran righty bounced back from a less than savory start against Toronto, posting one of his best efforts of the season. Of his total 104 pitches, 68 went for strikes, with his only mistake being a solo shot to Chris Davis. He’s now struck out seven in three of his last four starts. Fiers gave up two runs on five hits (including two homers) over seven innings against the Rays on June 11. Key matchups: Matt Duffy (2-4), Evan Longoria (1-2, HR, RBI, BB), Brad Miller (1-3, HR, RBI), Logan Morrison (3-7, RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (1-3, 2B)

Keuchel allowed just two runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over eight innings on Monday, earning a win. The lefty rebounded from a poor start, showing he’s still capable of delivering Cy Young Award like performances. In spite of that, Keuchel posted a 5.0 IP/5 H/5 R/4 ER/2 K line against Tampa Bay on June 12. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-4, 3B, RBI, BB), Logan Forsythe (6-16, RBI), Evan Longoria (5-15, 2 RBI), Mikie Mahtook (1-3, 2 RBI), Brad Miller (4-13, RBI, 2 BB), Logan Morrison (3-9, 2B), Steven Souza Jr. (1-2), Bobby Wilson (4-8, 2B, HR, 3 RBI)

Fister shut out the Pirates over seven innings on Monday, earning a win. The righty allowed just three hits and a walk, while striking out six. Fister, vacillating between very good (three shutout starts) and very bad (three starts of four-plus runs) starts over his last seven games, had allowed nine runs over his previous two starts before Monday. He’s relied upon a slow 88 mph sinker this season, while also mixing in a 71 mph curveball that generates a lot of whiffs, an 80 mph splitter with arm side fade, an 82 mph worm killer of a slider, an 85 mph cutter, and a whiffy 88 mph four-seam fastball. Key matchups: Matt Duffy (1-1), Logan Forsythe (2-3, 2B), Kevin Kiermaier (1-3), Evan Longoria (4-13, RBI, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-3), Bobby Wilson (1-2)


— Since being acquired at the trade deadline, Matt Duffy is batting .357 in 11 games. He collected his first extra-base hit with a double Thursday.

— Tim Beckham, who is sitting on a six game hit streak, missed the last two ball games with a hamstring issue and is considered day-to-day.

— Evan Longoria, who reached 30 homers for the fourth time in his career and, has hit 14 home runs on the road, where he is batting .310.

— Jose Altuve recorded his 11th RBI in nine games on Wednesday and is 5-for-10 against the Rays this season. He is coming off an eight-game hit streak.



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