The Tampa Bay Rays don’t usually have to worry about weather once a game is under way at Tropicana Field, but a tropical storm could postpone their next game before it starts.
The Rays would prefer for nothing to interrupt their momentum inside the dome.
Weather permitting, Tampa Bay will look to improve upon baseball’s best home record on Tuesday when it continues its three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels, with the winner claiming the top spot in the AL.
The Rays (76-48) are a stunning 46-17 at home, a win total that’s already five more than the previous high in the 10-year history of the franchise. But as Tampa Bay prepares for a shot to overtake the West-leading Angels (76-47) for the AL’s best record, there are greater concerns in the state of Florida.
Tropical Storm Fay, which left 50 dead as it tore through Haiti Monday, is nearing hurricane strength and expected to make landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast Tuesday.
Rays team president Matt Silverman says the middle game in this potential playoff preview is still on unless the weather “changes dramatically,” adding that a final decision should be made Tuesday afternoon.
“If the storm continues its current track, and the road conditions are safe, we will play the game,” Silverman said.
With Fay looming, Tampa Bay drew 15,896 fans - the fewest in its last 10 games - to Monday’s series opener, but the Rays rewarded the sparse crowd. Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd hit two-run homers as Tampa Bay went on to a 6-4 victory.
Despite the win, most of the talk after the game centered on center fielder B.J. Upton, who committed another baserunning gaffe, getting thrown out at second base on what should have been a routine double. Upton has been benched three times in two weeks by manager Joe Maddon for a lack of hustle.
“I think everybody in here will do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s not in Joe’s hands any more. It’s in nobody’s hands but ours,” Floyd said.
“It bothers me. … We don’t need to be talking about this stuff.”
The Rays improved to 5-2 against Los Angeles this season, including 4-0 at Tropicana Field. They began their season series on May 9 as Tampa Bay’s James Shields - Tuesday’s scheduled starter - pitched a one-hitter in a 2-0 win.
Shields (10-7, 3.75 ERA) had a tough outing Thursday at Oakland, giving up four runs, five hits and five walks over five innings. He didn’t factor in the decision as the Rays won 7-6 in 12 innings.
Shields is 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA at home.
The Angels, meanwhile, have a 15-game lead in the NL West, but they’ve also lost four of five and have scored 13 total runs in their last four games.
Looking to avoid their worst six-game stretch of the season, the Angels will give the ball to Ervin Santana (13-5, 3.49). The right-hander didn’t get a decision Wednesday, when he allowed three runs over 6 1-3 innings, striking out seven before Los Angeles lost 10-7 in 12 innings to Seattle.
He’s been roughed up in five career starts at Tampa Bay, going 1-3 with an 8.16 ERA.