Handshakes and an orange roof for the winners. (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

After earning their first series sweep since the start of the month, the Tampa Bay Rays look to rattle off a couple more wins starting Tuesday, when they welcome the Milwaukee Brewers into the Trop for a brief two-game series. The Brewers took two of three from the Blue Jays over the weekend.

At 40-32 on the season, the Rays enter play eight games over .500, while the Brewers enter play nine games over .500 at 42-33 on the season.

Suffice it to say, it wasn’t easy for the Rays in their previous series, yet they were competitive throughout, allowing Tampa Bay to pick up a much-needed sweep of Pittsburgh after scuffling to a 3-7 record over the previous 10 games.

Vidal Bruján opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning in Sunday’s finale by drawing a bases-loaded walk. While the score remained at apiece one for most of the contest, Ji-Man Choi broke the deadlock with an RBI double in the seventh inning before Josh Lowe and Isaac Paredes both added RBI singles.

I don’t know when the Player of the Week voting comes out, but he’s (Isaac Paredes) got to be at the top of somebody’s list because he’s been pretty spectacular. He’s seeing the ball really well. We’re learning a little bit about him as we go. We’re impressed with his presence, his calmness in the box and his confidence.

— Kevin Cash

Paredes did in fact win AL Player of the Week after putting up a .667 BA/.706 OBP/1.800 SLG/2.506 OPS/.997 wOBA slash line with eight extra-base hits (five home runs and three doubles), and nine runs scored while crossing the plate five times.

Tampa Bay has played 11 consecutive games that have been decided by one or two runs, including every game of their current home stand in which they are 4-2. They are 10-1 in interleague play this season.

Meanwhile, after scuffling for most of the month, Milwaukee has played much better over the last week, including an emphatic win in the rubber match against the Blue Jays on Sunday. Toronto plated three runs in the top of the first, but Rowdy Tellez launched a two-run homer in the bottom of the frame before Omar Narvaez tied the score with an RBI double. The Brewers scored five more runs in the next frame highlighted by another two-run homer from Tellez against his former team. It was an encouraging sign for a Brewers’ offense that has dipped to around 4.43 runs per game and a .717 OPS for the season.

The Brewers’ pitching staff is turning in yet another strong season with a 3.76 ERA that ranks within the top 10, including a 3.49 ERA from the ‘pen. Yet, as good as Milwaukee’s pitching has been, Tampa Bay’s has been better — performing to a combined 3.18 ERA and 3.77 FIP; a 3.28 ERA and a 3.59 FIP from the starters, and a 3.06 ERA and 3.97 FIP from the ‘pen. Both teams have been hampered by injuries (more on that below), but if Shane Baz, Jeffrey Springs, and the relief corps can keep Willy Adames, Tellez, and Brewers bats in check, they’ll have another shot at a sweep.

The Rays went 1-2 against the Brewers in 2017 and scored a measly two runs in so doing. Let’s hope for a better outcome Tuesday and Wednesday.

Pitching Probables

Even though Kevin Cash hasn’t officially named the series starters, he is expected to turn to Shane Baz (0-1, 4.15 ERA), and Jeffrey Springs (3-2, 2.25 ERA). Craig Counsell will counter with Brandon Woodruff (5-3, 4.74 ERA), and Eric Lauer (6-3, 3.89 ERA). I will update this piece should anything change.

Shane Baz allowed one run on four hits and two walks while striking out six over 4.2 innings on Wednesday against the Yankees. Baz held New York scoreless through three frames before serving up a solo homer to Aaron Judge in the fourth. The wheels began to fall off for Baz in the fifth after he allowed three straight hitters to reach base on a single and two one-out walks, although he struck out Judge with the bases loaded before giving way to the bullpen. After allowing five runs over 2.1 innings in his first start of the season on June 11, Baz has bounced back to allow only one run across 10.2 innings while racking up 13 strikeouts in his subsequent pair of outings. The right-hander maintains a 4.15 ERA and a 4.21 FIP on the season, with a 1.08 WHIP, and a 3.00 K/BB across 13 innings on the season.

Brandon Woodruff declared himself ready to return from the Injured List after throwing 74 pitches over five innings in a minor-league rehab start Thursday. Woodruff is likely to face some minor workload limitations after being sidelined for the past month, although he should have a decent chance of pitching at least five innings. Overall, woodruff maintains a 4.74 ERA and a 3.82 FIP on the season, with a 1.24 WHIP and 4.07 K/BB. The right-hander relies primarily on a whiffy 96 mph four-seam fastball and a blazing 96 mph sinker that has little sinking action, while also mixing in a firm 86 mph changeup that has slight arm-side fade, a hard 89 mph slider, and an 84 mph 12-6 curveball. He is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one career start against the Rays.

Jeffrey Springs allowed three runs on three solo shots among seven hits over six innings on Friday against the Pirates. He struck out a season-high nine without walking a batter. The Rays staked Springs to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but the southpaw’s inability to keep the ball in the park ended up costing him a win despite his otherwise impressive performance. He’s served up multiple homers in three of his last six starts, but he’s otherwise been sharp, maintaining a 2.25 ERA and a 3.35 FIP on the season, with a 1.00 WHIP and a 5.00 K/BB across 60 innings.

Eric Lauer allowed four runs on six hits and a walk over 6.1 innings on Friday against the Reds. Lauer cruised through four shutout frames before yielding three home runs — Albert Almora hit a two-run shot in the fifth before Brandon Drury and Tommy Pham went back-to-back in the sixth. Lauer has given up three homers in two straight outings, raising his season ERA to 3.57 through 12 starts. Overall, Lauer maintains a 4.87 FIP and a 1.19 WHIP, with a 3.35 K/BB. He relies primarily on a whiffy 94 mph four-seam fastball and a hard 88 mph slider with little depth, while also mixing in a 78 mph curveball and a 91 mph cutter that has good “rise” but little cutting action. The southpaw is 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in one career start against Tampa Bay. Key Matchup: Ji-Man Choi (2-3, 2 2B)


— While Tampa Bay has 14 players on the Injured List, it is possible Drew Rasmussen, Kevin Kiermaier, and Luis Patiño could return during the upcoming road trip. Additionally, Pete Fairbanks (lat strain) threw live batting practice on Monday in Port Charlotte and will pitch in a Florida League Complex game on Thursday, with a pending rehab stint in Durham. Per Neil Solondz, Brandon Lowe took batting practice on Monday, the latest step he’s taken to recover from a stress reaction in his back.

— Much like Tampa Bay, Milwaukee has myriad players on the IL. Former Ray Hunter Renfroe hit the IL last week with a strained calf, joining second baseman Kolten Wong (strained calf), and catcher Alex Jackson (sprained finger). Freddy Peralta is still out with a strained lat, while Aaron Ashby recently went down with forearm inflammation. Relievers Jake Cousins (elbow effusion), Luis Perdomo (elbow effusion), Miguel Sanchez (elbow discomfort), and Justin Topa (flexor tendon surgery) are also on the IL.

— The series marks a return to the Trop for several former Rays like Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau, Brad Boxberger, Hoby Milner, Omar Narvaez, VP/GM Matt Arnold, and Hitting Coach Ozzie Timmons.