Visiting the surging Washington Nationals might not present the ideal scenario for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are riding their longest road losing streak in three seasons.
The Rays will look to avoid a seventh consecutive away defeat on Tuesday when they face a Washington club that has won 12 of its past 15 games overall.
Tampa Bay is coming off a 4-2 homestand that could provide some momentum as it now focuses ending its longest single-season road slide since dropping nine straight away from home during the 2018 season.
The Rays, however, don’t expect to have an easy time against the Nationals, who hope to move above .500 for the first time since winning their season opener.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Washington shortstop Trea Turner, who has homered in back-to-back games, told MASN. “Don’t try to do more or less. Go out there and compete (with) whoever’s in front of us, and move on to the next day.”
It hasn’t really mattered the pitcher in front of Washington’s Kyle Schwarber, who has hit 11 of his 24 home runs over the past nine games — including two Monday in the National’s 8-4 win over the New York Mets.
Schwarber’s 15 homers in June are a Nationals record. The run of 11 long balls matches the highest total in a nine-game span since 1901, equaling the mark set by Frank Howard with the 1968 Washington Senators.
Schwarber, though, is 1-for-9 with three strikeouts and no homers against Tampa Bay’s scheduled Tuesday starter, Rich Hill (6-2, 3.52 ERA).
Hill, 41, improved to 3-0 in his past five starts after he overcame five walks to allow just one run on three hits over five innings of an 8-2 victory against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday. He recorded five strikeouts.
Hill is 3-0 with a 3.55 ERA in seven road starts this season. In seven career outings against Washington, including five starts, he is 2-2 with a 4.08 ERA.
“It’s like you’re trying to create some kind of little bit of magic out there,” Hill said, according to the Rays’ website, of the way he’s approaching the game this late in his lengthy career. “And, that’s what’s fun. That’s what I enjoy.”
The Nationals are expected to counter with Joe Ross (4-7, 4.12 ERA), who is coming off a strong outing Thursday at Miami. The right-hander allowed four hits and two walks while striking out eight over seven scoreless innings of a 7-3 victory.
It was the fourth time in his past six starts that Ross did not allow an earned run. Though he went 2-3 during those games, he posted a 2.31 ERA over that span.
Ross, who has never faced Tampa Bay, likely will get his first look at prized 20-year-old Rays shortstop Wander Franco. After going 2-for-4 in his major league debut on June 22, Franco is 1-for-18. Still, manager Kevin Cash doesn’t seem too worried.
“He keeps hitting balls hard … they’re going to find holes,” Cash said. “But no concern whatsoever.”
Teammate Randy Arozarena is another Ray that needs to get going again. Arozarena is 6-for-30 (.200) with one RBI in eight games since batting .340 (17-for-50) with three homers and 10 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak.
The Rays and Nationals split a two-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla., earlier this month.
–Field Level Media