After a 6-3 road trip, culminating in a third consecutive series win, the Tampa Bay Rays return home to the Trop, where they will start a three-game series against the Cardinals on Tuesday. St. Louis dropped two of three to the Rockies over the weekend.

At 68-46 on the season, the Rays enter play 22 games above .500 with 48 games left to play.

Tampa Bay continues to slip out of the July doldrums, having averaged 6.67 runs per game against the Tigers, and 4.57 runs per game over the last seven days. Over that stretch, the Rays have put up a .252 BA/.329 OBP/.443 SLG/.772 OPS, with a 119 wRC+. More importantly, Rays’ hitters have not only been able to slug the ball, but also get runners on, over, and home — something that had eluded them in recent times.

The Cardinals have performed similarly to the Rays — putting up a .276 BA/.323 OBP/.467 SLG/.790 OPS line with a 115 wRC+ — over the last week, yet the results haven’t been there. Over that span, they haven’t struck out much, although they haven’t earned many walks.

The Rays enter play with an overall 3.79 ERA and 3.88 FIP (3.70 ERA and 3.53 FIP for the starters, 3.89 ERA, and 4.29 FIP for the relievers). Over the last seven days, however, Tampa Bay, has looked like, well … Tampa Bay, maintaining a combined 3.46 ERA and 3.11 FIP (2.97 ERA and 3.36 FIP for the starters, 4.15 ERA and 2.76 FIP for the relievers).

Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ pitching staff has held the team back, pitching to an overall 4.58 ERA and 4.13 FIP (4.71 ERA and 4.29 FIP for the starters, 4.40 ERA, and 3.89 FIP for the relievers). They’ve been better over the last seven days, putting up a combined 3.67 ERA and a 3.60 FIP (5.23 ERA and a 3.48 FIP for the starters, 1.27 ERA and a 3.03 FIP for the relievers).

Tampa Bay went 3-0 against the St. Louis last season, outscoring them 17-6.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Zach Eflin (12-6, 3.46 ERA, 2.92 FIP), potentially Tyler Glasnow (5-1, 3.15 ERA, 3.18 FIP) pending the status of his back, and Zack Littell (2-2, 4.04 ERA, 3.36 FIP). Oliver Marmol will counter with Miles Mikolas (6-7, 4.29 ERA, 3.76 FIP), Dakota Hudson (2-0, 4.10 ERA, 4.12 FIP), and Matthew Liberatore (1-4, 6.93 ERA, 5.26 FIP).

Zach Eflin allowed just three hits over six scoreless innings against the Yankees. He struck out five. Eflin showed no ill effects Tuesday after departing his previous start with knee discomfort, firing six scoreless frames against the Bronx Bummers. It was the type of effort Tampa Bay needed from Eflin after he allowed five runs in two of his previous three turns. The 29-year-old right-hander now sports a 3.46 ERA and a 2.92 FIP, with a 1.00 WHIP, and a 7.12 K/BB across 21 starts (122.1 innings) on the season.

Miles Mikolas gave up up three runs (two earned) on six hits and a walk over seven innings against the Twins on Tuesday. He fanned seven. The right-hander was able to take his normal turn through the rotation while waiting to hear the results of his appeal on a five-game suspension, and Mikolas delivered his ninth quality start of the season on 109 pitches (72 strikes, 66% strike rate), although he came up short in a pitchers’ duel with Pablo Lopez. All told, Mikolas has posted a 4.29 ERA and a 3.76 FIP, with a 1.29 WHIP, and a 3.62 K/BB on the season. He relies primarily on a 93 mph sinker, a 93 mph fourseam fastball that has some natural sinking action, and an 87 mph slider, while also mixing in a 76 mph curveball that has exceptional bite, and an 85 mph changeup that has slight arm-side fade.

Tyler Glasnow allowed one run on three hits and two walks over seven innings against the Yankees. He struck out eight and threw 94 pitches (61 strikes, 65% strike rate, 18% SwStr%). Glasnow now has eight or more strikeouts in six of his last seven starts while pitching to a 2.08 ERA in that span. He has returned to elite form after missing the first two months of the season with an oblique injury. Overall, Glasnow’s ERA is down to 3.15 with a 3.18 FIP, a 1.08 WHIP, and 4.36 K/BB across 12 starts (68.2 innings) this season. 

Dakota Hudson allowed three runs on two hits and three walks while striking out seven batters over seven innings against the Twins on Wednesday. Hudson has spent most of the season in a long-relief role, but he was moved into the rotation after the Cardinals traded Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty. Hudson got through six scoreless frames before Matt Wallner tagged him for a three-run homer in the seventh. The right-hander finished with a quality start. Hudson maintains a 4.10 ERA and a 4.12 FIP, with a 1.37 WHIP, and a 2.00 K/BB on the season. He relies primarily on a 92 mph sinker that has some natural sinking action and a whiffy 86 mph cutter with heavy sinking action, while also mixing in a 92 mph worm-killer fourseam fastball, and an 81 mph slider that has exceptional depth and short glove-side cut. Key Matchups: Manuel Margot (1-4, 2B), Harold Ramírez (1-3)

Zack Littell scattered three hits and one walk over six scoreless innings against Detroit on Friday. He struck out one. The Rays gave Littell a nice cushion early and he cruised, completing six frames on 74 pitches. It wasn’t a dominant performance in terms of whiffs — Littell coaxed just five swinging strikes (7% SwStr%) — but he was efficient, limited hard contact, and kept the ball on the ground. All told, Littell lowered his ERA and FIP to 4.04 and 3.36 (respectively), with a 1.35 WHIP, and a 5.17 K/BB across 35.2 innings.

Matthew Liberatore, the former Rays farm hand, allowed five runs on six hits and two walks over 5.2 innings against the Twins. He struck out one. Most of the damage against Liberatore came in the second inning when he was tagged for four runs on a pair of homers. He now maintains a 6.93 and a 5.26 FIP, with a 1.78 WHIP, and a 1.28 K/BB across nine starts (37.2 innings) this season. Liberatore relies primarily on a 94 mph fourseam fastball and a whiffy 76 mph curveball that has exceptional bite and slight glove-side movement, also mixing in a blazing 94 mph sinker, an 86 mph hard slider that has some two-plane movement, and an 87 mph changeup.


— After leaving last Wednesday’s contest in the fourth inning due to tightness on the outside of his forearm, Shane McClanahan made his way to Los Angeles, where he sought the opinion of specialist Dr. Neal El Attrache. Again, there was no definitive diagnosis, and the team had no update. The southpaw plans to see Texas-based Dr. Keith Meister, next week; he previously had an MRI and was examined by team orthopedist Dr. Koco Eaton late last week.

— Tampa Bay could receive reinforcements this week in one, Andrew Kittredge. The right-hander has been with Triple-A Durham for each of his last nine appearances (9.0 innings). He’s allowed seven earned runs across 13 innings — six of which came in just one-third of an inning in an outing on July 23 (resulting in a bloated 7.00 ERA, but a 2.93 FIP), and one run five days later — but has otherwise been effective.