Following an intense series against the team they’re challenging for the AL East crown, the Tampa Bay Rays emerged in control of the division.
They’ll continue their push for a second East title in three years Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels, as scheduled starter Wade Davis(notes) looks to become the first pitcher in Rays history to win eight straight decisions.
Tampa Bay (88-57) concluded a grueling series against New York with a 4-3 victory on Wednesday to take two of three from Yankees and a one-half game lead in the East. Dan Johnson(notes) had two two-run homers in the finale, and all three games were decided by one run with the first two going to extra innings.
“It’s tiring, obviously emotionally tiring,” Carlos Pena told the Rays’ official website. “Those games were intense. This series was very intense for us. I’m just glad we were able to take two out of three.”
The rivalry will resume immediately following this series, as Tampa Bay visits Yankee Stadium for four games beginning Monday.
Before looking too far ahead, the Rays will try to improve to 9-2 with Davis on the mound since the start of July.
Davis (12-9, 4.24 ERA) gave up one run and seven hits in seven innings in Saturday’s 13-1 win over Toronto, the third time in four starts since coming off the disabled list (strained right shoulder) that he yielded two runs or fewer.
The right-hander’s first start off the DL was at Angels Stadium on Aug. 24, when he gave up two runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 10-3 victory.
“He’s come off the injury and I believe he’s throwing the ball better than I’ve ever seen,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m talking velocity, depth on breaking ball, demeanor on the mound, awareness. All those things are getting better and that’s why he’s pitched so well.”
While the Rays’ history was pretty miserable prior to winning the East and AL pennant in 2008, the Angels (71-75) are on the verge of relinquishing the West crown for the first time since 2006.
Matsui is batting .438 with two home runs in his last 10 games, and is 4 for 5 lifetime against Davis.
The Angels counter with Dan Haren(notes) (3-4, 3.04), who is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 28 strikeouts over 27 innings in his last four starts. Against Seattle on Sunday, the right-hander allowed only three singles in seven innings of a 3-0 win.
“I’m definitely happy with the way I’ve been throwing the ball overall the last few weeks,” he said.
Haren’s hot streak started against the Rays on Aug. 25, when he gave up one run and three hits in six innings of a 12-3 victory. The three-time All-Star is 5-2 with a 2.60 ERA in eight career starts versus Tampa Bay.
This will be Los Angeles’ first trip to St. Petersburg after dropping four of six to Tampa Bay in Anaheim this year. Evan Longoria(notes) hit .346 with two home runs and eight RBIs in those games for the Rays, who are 9-3 versus Los Angeles at home since 2007.