If the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are to have any chance at the franchise’s first winning season, improving their play on the road is imperative.
The Devil Rays try to record a rare victory in Texas against the Rangers on Monday night as they open a seven-game road trip.
Because the Devil Rays (2-3) have never finished above .500 in their nine previous seasons, it’s no surprise they have struggled away from home. They have, however, been unable to show any improvement in that department, losing a franchise-record 61 road games in 2006 after dropping 54 in 2005 and 52 the previous year.
Tampa Bay, which opened this season by splitting its first two games at Yankee Stadium, will be tested on this trip as it faces Texas (2-4) for three games and defending AL Central champion Minnesota for four.
The Devils Rays are 14-28 all-time at Texas, including a 3-12 mark there since the start of the 2003 season. Last year, they were outscored 27-15 during three straight losses at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington from April 21-23.
“Kaz did an outstanding job, and he deserved to win,” Rays first baseman Carlos Pena said. “We just couldn’t get it going against Halladay, even though we battled. We couldn’t get it done. We just have to regroup and go after them again tomorrow.”
One bright spot for Tampa Bay was Rocco Baldelli’s 3-for-4 performance, which included a solo home run. Baldelli had been 1-for-13 in his first three games this season.
Right-hander Edwin Jackson makes his season debut on the mound for the Devil Rays. Jackson, who hasn’t pitched since March 29, earned the fifth spot in Tampa Bay’s rotation with a 1.74 ERA during spring training.
Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said he expects the long layoff could affect his pitcher.
“You don’t want to judge too harshly,” Maddon said. “I know he has high expectations for himself, but it will be difficult because of the layoff.”
Jackson made his only start of 2006 on April 22 at Texas and struggled with his control, walking six while allowing five runs and three hits in seven innings, matching the longest outing of his career. The right-hander had no decisions and a 5.45 ERA in 23 appearances last season.
A 3-2 loss Sunday prevented the Rangers from completing a three-game sweep of visiting Boston.
“We had a chance, and we didn’t do it,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said on the team’s official Web site. “But I like the way we fought and played. Trying to sweep that club is not easy. But we almost did. We almost did.”
Texas continued to struggle offensively, scoring three runs or fewer for the fifth time in six games. The Rangers are batting .196 (37-for-189) with 19 total runs on the season.
Brandon McCarthy (0-1, 4.50 ERA) lasted six innings in his Rangers debut last Wednesday, yielding five runs - three earned - and 10 hits in a 5-3 loss to the Angels. He has been hit hard in three career appearances, including two starts, against the Devil Rays, going 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA and a .395 opponent batting average.
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