TV: SUN SPORTS
TIME: PREGAME COVERAGER STARTS AT 6:30 P.M.
After dominating a pair of division rivals, the New York Mets look to maintain their winning ways when baseball's hottest team visits an AL park to open a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
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The revamped Mets make their first trip to Tropicana Field since 2012 atop the NL East following consecutive three-game sweeps of Washington and Miami. They've won nine of 11 as a lineup bolstered at the trade deadline has provided ample support to a strong rotation.
New York outscored the Marlins 25-8 to open its Florida swing, though it had to survive a six-run ninth inning for an 8-6 win Wednesday. The Mets collected at least 12 hits in all three games and have scored five or more runs in four straight, their longest such stretch of the season.
The Mets produced 29 runs in earning a three-game sweep in their last visit to Tampa from June 12-14, 2012. New York is 6-3 all-time at Tropicana Field.
Lucas Duda drove in three runs Wednesday and has 15 RBI while hitting nine home runs during New York's 9-2 tear. Curtis Granderson has eight RBI while batting .355 in a seven-game hitting streak.
New faces have gotten into the act as well. Juan Uribe, acquired from Atlanta on July 24, delivered a three-run homer Wednesday, while Yoenis Cespedes has gone 7 for 22 with five RBI in five games since coming over from Detroit on Friday.
"The additions have made a big difference, not just hitting the ball, but also having veterans this time of year," manager Terry Collins said.
New York's starting pitchers have posted a 1.44 ERA during the win streak.
Jacob deGrom (10-6, 2.09 ERA) tries to continue that trend and extend his own outstanding run in the opener. The All-Star is 2-0 with a 1.30 ERA in his last four starts and has won three consecutive outings on the road, where he's gone 5-1 with a 1.22 ERA in his six most recent efforts.
DeGrom is 2-2 in four career interleague starts but has allowed one run in seven innings in three of those games, including a 5-1 home win over Baltimore on May 6. The Florida native has never faced the Rays.
Grady Sizemore is the only Tampa Bay player with more than two at-bats against deGrom, having gone 2 of 9.
Cespedes is 3 of 9 with a home run against Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 2.86), whose 1.41 home ERA would rank third in the majors had he enough innings to qualify.
Odorizzi has yielded one or no earned runs in all but one of his seven Tropicana starts in 2015. He's won both home assignments since returning from the disabled list in mid-July, giving up one run over 11 2/3 innings in victories over Houston and Detroit last month.
The right-hander, who will make his first appearance against the Mets, is 3-3 with a 3.52 ERA in eight career interleague starts.
The Rays return home from a 3-3 trip capped by Wednesday's 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox that snapped a three-game win streak. Asdrubal Cabrera went 4 of 5 with two RBI to increase his hit streak to nine games, but he's uncertain for the opener after being struck in the head by a throw from teammate Curt Casali during a steal attempt by Chicago's Adam Eaton in the 10th.
"Kind of a fluke play," Rays manager Kevin Cash told MLB's official website. "I'm not sure if it took off on Cabby or he put the tag down too early. But it dinged him pretty good."