The Tampa Bay Rays look to build upon their newfound lead atop the American League East standings when they host the Seattle Mariners for a three-game series beginning Monday.
The Rays flipped a 1 1/2-game deficit in their division to a 1 1/2-game lead courtesy of a three-game home sweep of the Boston Red Sox over the weekend. Tampa Bay has won nine of its last 12 overall despite having a franchise-record 15 pitchers currently sidelined on its injured list.
"The guys put it together," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "They played really good baseball. A lot of tight games. They're [Red Sox] a good team, we're a good team. To be able to win three, that's not easy to do. So credit the guys a lot."
The Mariners have lost four of five, including dropping their each of their last two on one-run walk-offs against the Texas Rangers.
Right-hander Chris Flexen (9-5, 3.81 ERA) is set to take the mound for Seattle in the opener Monday looking to rebound from giving up seven runs in his last outing. Righty Michael Wacha (2-2, 4.79) will toe the rubber for Tampa Bay.
The Mariners swept a four-game series against the Rays when the teams met in Seattle from June 17-20, winning three times on walk-offs. The disastrous performance by Tampa Bay came amid a season-high seven-game losing streak, losing four by walk-off.
Maintaining momentum is key for the Rays this week, as they return to Boston for a three-game rematch from Aug. 10-12.
The Mariners' recent skid has dropped the team eight games back in the AL West. Sunday's loss was particularly tough, as the club entered the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead before falling 4-3.
"We got a lot of games left to play. There's no question about it," said skipper Scott Servais. "I do know something about this group -- they've got a lot of grit. We will show up in Tampa, we'll come up with great effort, and we're going to that series expecting to win it, even though they're playing good baseball."
Flexen was roughed up by the Houston Astros over four innings in his last turn. The 27-year-old had allowed three runs or fewer in eight straight starts prior to the blowup.
Flexen has faced Tampa Bay once, allowing five runs in three innings during a start with the New York Mets in 2018.
Wacha will pitch for the Rays after matching a season high with nine strikeouts against the New York Yankees in his most recent performance. He surrendered one unearned run over five innings in a no-decision.
Wacha is 0-2 with an 8.25 ERA lifetime versus Seattle. That includes June 18, when he was tagged for five runs on 11 hits over 3 2/3 innings in a loss.
The Rays on Sunday placed left-handed reliever Jeffrey Springs on the 10-day injured list with a right knee sprain.
"It stings when it's guys that have been such big parts of us getting to where we're at right now," Cash said of his banged-up arms. "Injuries occur, and you've just kind of got to be prepared for it, but individually you really feel for those guys."
--Field Level Media