Perhaps the only thing that can slow down the surging Tampa Bay Rays is a few days off.
The Rays head into the All-Star break looking to win their third straight series with a second consecutive victory over the visiting Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
Gabe Kapler(notes) had a two-run single and Matt Garza(notes) allowed one hit in six solid innings of Tampa Bay’s 4-0 win over the Indians on Saturday. After going 11-14 in June, the Rays (53-34) are 8-2 in July, second in the AL East and playing with plenty of confidence heading into the break.
Manager Joe Maddon is happy with the way his team overcame a tough month by winning six of seven against probable postseason contenders Minnesota and Boston, then taking two of three in this four-game set with the last-place Indians (34-53).
“We’re starting to get it,” Maddon told the Rays’ official website. “I believe those are the kinds of teams that play in October and have a chance to win, and that’s what we’re starting to look like again.”
The Rays have showed decent balance by averaging 5.2 runs and posting a 3.73 ERA while winning nine of 11 overall.
“It’s the team concept,” Maddon said.
Jeff Niemann(notes) (7-2, 2.65 ERA) looks to head into the break with a second straight victory for the Rays. The right-hander allowed a run and four hits in six innings of a 3-2 win over Boston on Tuesday for his first victory since June 8.
Niemann, 16-4 since June 1, 2009, is 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA in two starts versus Cleveland. He gave up three runs in six innings of a 4-3, 11-inning win over the Indians on May 17.
Cleveland has scored 23 runs in those three victories and seven in the six losses.
“You can’t complain,” manager Manny Acta told the Indians’ official website. “You’ve still got to score runs somehow, some way.”
Making matters worse, the Indians could be without slugger Travis Hafner(notes) after he left Saturday’s game with upper back stiffness. The Indians already are playing without injuried starters Grady Sizemore(notes) (knee), Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) (forearm) and Shin-Soo Choo(notes) (thumb).
Coming off a start where gave up a run in 8 1-3 innings to beat Toronto on July 1, Masterson allowed seven in 5 1-3 innings of a 12-1 loss at Texas on Tuesday.
The right-hander is 1-2 with a 7.00 ERA as a starter against Tampa Bay.