Yu Chang hit his first homer in a Rays’ uniform on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After taking three out of four in Detroit, the Tampa Bay Rays continue their mid-western road trek on Tuesday, when they open a brief, two-game series in Milwaukee. The Brewers dropped two of three against Cincinnati over the weekend.

At 58-50 on the season, the Rays enter play eight games over .500 and 1.5 games behind the Blue Jays for the top American League Wildcard spot, and 0.5 games ahead of the M’s in the Wildcard race.

Tampa Bay started inauspiciously out of the All-Star Break but has played well as of late, winning four of the last five games. Over the weekend, the Rays exploded for seven two-out runs in the ninth inning after battling through eight scoreless frames, highlighted by two bases-loaded walks — allowing them to win the series.

When you go up there in the ninth inning of a scoreless game, your first impulse is to do something big. It isn’t easy to still have the patience to lay off close pitches, but that’s what we were able to do. That turned into a fun inning.

— Kevin Cash

The Rays’ pitching has picked up in the last 14 games with a team ERA of 3.55, a FIP of 3.26, and an xFIP of 3.55. They have struck out 102 batters in 114.0 innings pitched and given up just 22 walks as a team.

Milwaukee has hit a tough patch, dropping six out of the last seven contests. The team has now fallen two games behind the red-hot Cardinals. More concerning, though, is who the Brewers have lost to during their poor spate of play. Each of the six losses has come against sub .500 teams: Boston, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.

On Sunday, the Brewers’ struggling bullpen faltered once again allowing a run to the Reds in the eighth inning and then two in the ninth for a 4-2 loss in extra-innings. Former Padres closer Taylor Rogers allowed two hits and a run while new closer Devin Williams allowed the extra inning runs as Milwaukee tries to sort out their bullpen after trading away Josh Hader at the deadline. Milwaukee’s once-vaunted relief corps had already struggled prior to the trade deadline, yet the trade of Hader only made the ‘pens’ problems more glaring.

The Rays are seeking to avenge the two losses against the Brewers earlier in the season.

Pitching Probables

Over the next two days, Kevin Cash is expected to turn to Ryan Yarbrough (0-6, 4.89 ERA) in some capacity, and Jeffrey Springs (4-3, 2.50 ERA). Craig Counsell will counter with Freddy Peralta (3-2, 4.46 ERA) and Brandon Woodruff (9-3, 3.49 ERA).

Ryan Yarbrough tossed four innings of relief Behind Jalen Beeks against the Blue Jays on Wednesday, allowing one run on one hit and one walk with two strikeouts. Aside from a solo shot by Teoscar Hernandez in the fourth inning, Yarbrough shut down a potent Toronto offense completely. The left-hander has been much improved since rejoining the Rays’ staff just before the All-Star Break, posting a 3.26 ERA but a 5.19 FIP, with a 0.98 WHIP, and 5.33 K/BB through 19.1 innings over his last four appearances (two starts).

Freddy Peralta surrendered two earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out three over 3.2 innings against the Pirates on Wednesday. Peralta made his first start since May 22 after being sidelined with a lat injury. It didn’t go as smoothly as he had hoped, since he was pulled before making it through the fourth inning after giving up a triple to Tucupita Marcano. He, however, did throw 67 pitches (41 strikes, 61% strike rate) without any discomfort. Overall, he maintains a 4.46 ERA and a 2.19 FIP, with a 1.23 WHIP, and 3.53 K/BB through 42.1 innings. Peralta relies primarily on a whiffy 93 mph four-seam fastball and an 81 mph slider that has short glove-side cut, while also mixing in a firm 86 mph changeup that has slight arm-side fade and has some natural sink to it, and a 77 mph 12-6 curveball.

Jeffrey Springs allowed two runs (both unearned) on four hits across six innings. He struck out six. Springs had to work around a pair of errors from Yandy Díaz in the third inning, which ultimately allowed two runs to cross the plate. However, Springs was sharp in his longest start since June 24, throwing 60 of 85 pitches for strikes (71% strike rate). On the season, Springs owns a 2.50 ERA and 3.43 FIP, with a 1.08 WHIP, and a 5.19 K/BB across 22 outings (14 starts), though he’s allowed 10 runs (seven earned) across 19.1 innings in his last four turns.

Brandon Woodruff allowed three runs on eight hits and three walks over 6.1 innings on Thursday against the Pirates. He struck out three. Woodruff struggled with his command in the second inning, throwing a wild pitch that allowed Greg Allen to advance to third before he ultimately scored on a passed ball by Victor Caratini. The right-hander settled down and fired four scoreless frames before he allowed three of the first four hitters to reach in the seventh inning, including an RBI single by Tucupita Marcano. Woodruff was tagged with another earned run when Brad Boxberger allowed an inherited runner to score on Ben Gamel’s single. Overall, he maintains a 0.00 ERA and a 3.49 FIP, with a 1.15 WHIP, and 3.85 K/BB through 85.0 innings, although he has walked multiple batters in four of his last five outings. Woodruff relies primarily on a whiffy 96 mph four-seam fastball and a blazing 96 mph sinker that coaxes a lot of swings and misses, while also mixing in a firm 86 mph changeup that has slight arm-side fade, an 84 mph 12-6 curveball, and a hard 88 mph slider. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (1-2, RBI), Yandy Díaz (1-2, 2B), Francisco Mejía (1-3, HR, 2 RBI)