The Tampa Bay Rays face a daunting task Sunday night.
They'll be out to avoid their first five-game skid in two seasons as they face Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw for the first time in the finale of this three-game set.
Tampa Bay (66-49) will try to avoid a winless five-game trip and its first losing streak of that length since dropping six straight to start 2011.
The Rays' first visit to Dodger Stadium hasn't gone well. They have now gone 13 innings without scoring after blowing a six-run lead in Friday's 7-6 defeat before a 5-0 loss Saturday.
It won't get any easier against Kershaw (10-7, 1.91 ERA), who leads the majors in ERA and opponent batting average (.188). Tampa Bay's top three RBI leaders - Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and former Dodger James Loney - have never faced Kershaw and neither has rookie standout Wil Myers.
The only Rays hitters with more than five at-bats against Kershaw are Kelly Johnson (3 for 15) and Ryan Roberts (2 for 14).
Kershaw gave up two runs over six innings in Tuesday's 5-1 loss at St. Louis. He went 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA over his previous seven outings, pitching at least seven innings each time.
Tampa Bay may have some hope with a 23-15 record against left-handed starters. In addition, Kershaw owns one of the majors' worst run-support averages at 3.20.
"It seems like over the years, we've seen a lot of guys in the (Kershaw) category that it doesn't seem like they get runs. I don't know what it is," manager Don Mattingly told the Dodgers' official website.
Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson (10-5, 4.77) owns baseball's third-best run-support average at 6.54 but he has allowed nine runs over nine innings in losing consecutive starts to Arizona to drop to 1-5 with a 6.89 ERA in nine interleague outings.
"The mindset's always to get ahead and attack and be aggressive. I really haven't shown that mindset the last few games," Hellickson told the team's official website. "I do have to get back to that and being more aggressive. ... I just wasn't very good the last two games. That's basically what it comes down to."
The right-hander, who has never faced the Dodgers, surrendered five runs over 4 2-3 innings in Tuesday's 6-1 loss. He had won five straight road decisions.
Los Angeles (66-50) has won four in a row, nine of 10 and is a major league-best 19-3 since the All-Star break. Adrian Gonzalez ended a 16-game homerless drought Saturday and Nick Punto singled in two runs.
"Obviously it feels pretty good, the way we're playing," Mattingly said. "Our starting pitching gives us a chance to win every day."
Tampa Bay starter Roberto Hernandez gave up all the runs over four innings Saturday.
Rays manager Joe Maddon has now replaced his starter before the fifth inning five times in the last eight games. Prior to this stretch, Tampa Bay got at least five innings from a starter in 32 consecutive games.
Maddon also chose to intentionally walk the red-hot Yasiel Puig the rookie's last two times up Saturday. Puig finished 0 for 2 as his eight-game run ended in which he went 14 for 29. He has a .595 on-base percentage this month.
The Dodgers' Skip Schumaker is 9 for 14 in his last three games.
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