Lackey looks to win his eighth straight against the Rays as he takes the mound for the Los Angeles Angels as they continue a three-game series at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.
After beginning the season sidelined by right elbow inflammation, Lackey (1-1, 5.13 ERA) recorded his first win May 18, but has since lost once and watched the bullpen squander two leads after he exited. The right-hander gave up two runs in seven innings against Toronto on Thursday, exiting with a 5-2 lead, but the Angels (29-27) had to rally for a 6-5 victory after Justin Speier(notes) blew the save.
Lackey is 9-1 with a 2.36 ERA in 11 lifetime starts against the Rays (29-31), who have not beaten him since 2003. He has struck out 24 in 21 1-3 innings in winning his last three starts versus Tampa Bay—all at home—but is 2-1 with a 4.87 ERA in three lifetime starts at Tropicana Field, where he has not pitched since 2006.
The Angels will try to win for the fifth time in seven games and clinch their first series victory at Tampa Bay since taking two of three July 24-26, 2006. Jered Weaver(notes) managed to overcome the heat and a season-high four walks Tuesday for his third straight victory, giving up two runs in six innings of a 4-3 victory.
“I was down in the bullpen warming up and they said the temperature is 72 degrees and I was like ‘no way it’s 72 degrees in here,’” Weaver said. “I was sweating. It probably got to me a little bit. I changed my shirt and jersey in about the third or fourth (inning).”
Angels starters are 2-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 10 games at Tropicana Field over the last three seasons.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has lost three straight, going 2 for 21 with runners in scoring position. Carl Crawford(notes) went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts Tuesday and grounded into a game-ending double play.
“It’s very uncharacteristic for us. We need to start making plays,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “There were so many things that could have gone our way that did not go our way.”
Crawford, who is 2 for 12 during the losing streak, is 11 for 30 (.367) against Lackey.
Looking to snap their losing streak, the Rays turn to Jeff Niemann(notes) (5-4, 3.77), who retired his first 14 batters and struck out a career-high nine en route to a two-hitter Wednesday against Kansas City in a 9-0 victory.
“I’ve always felt that I can do that,” said Niemann, who is 3-1 with a 2.36 ERA in his last six starts. “To come out here and do it, it was awesome. You get that confidence boost that you really can do it.”
The right-hander has never faced the Angels.