ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Led by a bullpen bolstered by three trades at the deadline, the Tampa Bay Rays bring a three-game winning streak into their return home for a three-game series against the slumping Milwaukee Brewers.
The teams have matching 57-53 records but enter with different momentum. The Rays are coming off a 4-4 trip but, more immediately, three straight wins against the Astros, including a 5-3 comeback win Thursday.
The Brewers, even with a 2-1 win Thursday against the Cardinals, are 5-12 in their last 17 games, allowing the Cubs to take control of their division.
More Brewers coverage
- Preview: Brewers at Rays
- Brewers win home series vs. Cardinals for 1st time since 2012
- Brewers Final Pitch: Pitching, defense key against Cardinals
- WATCH: Keon Broxton casually robs Cardinals of a home run
- Brewers OF prospect Phillips picks up where he left off in Triple-A
"In this stretch, we can point to every player and say, 'We'd like more,'" Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Thursday. "That's what happens when you get into team-wide run-scoring droughts. It's been a dry stretch."
The Brewers have scored three runs or less in each of their last three wins, while the Rays are getting scoring at the plate and stellar relief. In their three wins in Houston, the bullpen combined for 10 2/3 innings of scoreless, three-hit relief, including five innings in Thursday's win.
"Can't say enough about the way the team responded after three really tough days to start the trip," Rays manager Kevin Cash said, referring to tough losses at the Yankees. "To be able to come in here and find a way to win a four-game series, three out of four, speaks volumes about the club."
This comes after the Rays made three deadline trades to help their bullpen -- adding Dan Jennings from the Chicago White Sox, Steve Cishek from the Seattle Mariners and Sergio Romo from the Los Angeles Dodgers -- in addition to Lucas Duda, who had three home runs in his first six games after being acquired from the New York Mets.
Friday's series opener features a pair of promising 24-year-olds. The Rays' Jake Faria has been dominant, with a 5-1 record and 2.93 ERA in 10 starts, with Tampa Bay going 8-2 in those starts. He has a 5.51 ERA in his last three starts, but the Rays have given him wins in two of those starts anyway. Faria makes his first start against a National League opponent to open the interleague series.
Milwaukee answers with the major league debut of righty Brandon Woodruff, who was to make his debut in June but injured his hamstring before his first pitch and missed six weeks on the disabled list. Woodruff, rated among the Brewers' top prospects, is 6-5 with a 4.46 ERA this season for Triple-A Colorado Springs; but, in his last 10 starts, he's 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA.
The Brewers are now 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs for the division lead but 5 1/2 games back in the wild-card race. The Rays are in better shape, just a half-game out of the wild card and 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the first wild card in the American League.