Tampa Bay (34-31) at Colorado (31-32)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Denver, CO
Temp: 72° F
  • Game info: 8:40 pm EDT Tue Jun 16, 2009
  • TV: SUN, FSRM
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The longest active winning streak in the AL finally has the Tampa Bay Rays feeling good about themselves, but they’re hardly the hottest team in baseball.

That’s the Colorado Rockies, who can notch a franchise-record 12th straight victory and get back to .500 when they open a three-game series Tuesday night against the visiting Rays, winners of five in a row.

Colorado had lost three straight and slumped to last place in the NL West before manager Clint Hurdle was fired and replaced with Jim Tracy on May 29.

Under Tracy, the Rockies (31-32) are 13-4, including victories in their last 11 games to match the club record set during their charge to the playoffs - and eventually the NL pennant - in September 2007.

The recent run has included a four-game road sweep of St. Louis and three straight victories in Milwaukee before Colorado returned to Coors Field and swept Seattle over the weekend.

“We played great baseball in the first two games in St. Louis, and you could see an easiness to the group by game three in St. Louis,” Tracy said. “Then when we got to Milwaukee I saw belief.”

The confidence has certainly permeated the team’s pitchers, who were 14th in the NL with a 4.79 ERA before the streak. They have allowed two or fewer runs in seven of their last nine games and have a 2.55 ERA in the last 11, with their starters going 10-0.

Jorge De La Rosa(notes) (2-6, 5.08 ERA) will try to keep that going Tuesday. He has earned his first two victories of the season in his last two outings, striking out 15 in a pair of quality starts against the Cardinals and Brewers.

De La Rosa is 0-4 with a 6.67 ERA at Coors this year, but he’ll hope to have ample support from a resurgent offense that has averaged 6.6 runs during the streak.

Along with Todd Helton(notes) and Brad Hawpe(notes), shortstop Clint Barmes(notes) has sparked the lineup, batting .383 (18 for 47) with 11 RBIs in the last 11 games. Barmes has eight multi-hit efforts over that span, including one in Sunday’s 7-1 win over the Mariners.

The Rays (34-31) have also begun to turn around their disappointing start, winning 11 of their last 15 to move within five games of AL East-leading Boston. After sweeping lowly Washington over the weekend, the reigning AL champs have won five straight for the first time all year.

Willy Aybar’s(notes) pinch-hit, RBI double in the eighth inning helped Tampa Bay to a 5-4 win over the Nationals on Sunday.

“You stink together through those tough times like we did early, you’re going to have a little shine here,” reliever J.P. Howell(notes) said. “We kind of see the light and know that if we keep going we’re going to have a pretty good push here.”

Tampa Bay will hope Jeff Niemann(notes) (5-4, 4.12) can cool off Colorado and extend its own streak. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in his last six starts, including a shutout of Kansas City on June 3, but he allowed seven hits and five runs in 3 2-3 innings Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.

Niemann will try to help a bullpen that learned it will be without Jason Isringhausen(notes) for the rest of the season after the right-hander tore a ligament in his elbow Saturday.

The two clubs are among a four-way tie for the best record in interleague play at 5-1. But the Rays are just 1-5 all-time in Denver and 13-19 on the road this year, and they’ve lost seven of their last eight road games.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Niemann TB vs. J. De La Rosa Col
13-6 Record 16-9
3.94 ERA 4.38
125 K 193
59 BB 83
1.35 WHIP 1.38

Scoreboard

Tuesday, Jun 16