Series Preview #20: Tampa Bay Rays (29-24) at Cleveland Indians (29-24)

Tampa Bay makes its lone trip to Cleveland this weekend, as the Indians host the Rays in a three-game series.

The Rays (29-24) come to town hot, winning their last five games. They salvaged the final game of their series with the New York Yankees on Sunday prior to sweeping the Miami Marlins in four straight games. They took two of three from the Indians in the first week of the season.

The Indians (29-24) swept the Reds in two games at Progressive Field, returning the favor after the Reds swept Cleveland in Cincinnati. The two wins extend the Indians winning streak against the Reds in Cleveland to nine games, the longest such home field advantage stretch between the two clubs in their histories against one another. The series win helped to end a five-game losing streak that the team’s bullpen struggled through. They continue to play through a tough stretch of the season schedule.

Matt Moore and Corey Kluber are the scheduled starters for Friday night’s 7:05 PM ET first pitch. Moore (8-0, 2.21 ERA) dominated the Indians in his matchup earlier in his first start of the season against the Indians, limiting them to just two hits and two walks over six innings in a win. He has allowed more than two runs in just two starts this season. Kluber (3-3, 4.57) earned a no-decision in what was his best start of the season. He pitched deep into the seventh inning and allowed just one run on three hits and struck out ten. He has never faced the Rays.

Chris Archer will make the start on Saturday for the Rays against Ubaldo Jimenez. Archer, the former fifth round pick of the Indians in the 2006 draft, will make his first start of the season. Jimenez (3-3, 5.57) will take the rubber at 1:05 PM ET. He allowed two runs in seven innings against the Reds on Monday. He has allowed two earned runs or less in five of his last six starts.

Jeremy Hellickson and Zach McAllister will oppose one another in Sunday’s 1:05 PM ET finale. Hellickson (2-2, 5.61) has had a rough year and has failed to earn the decision in five of six May outings. He allowed five earned runs and worked into the sixth in his last outing against Miami. McAllister (4-4, 3.08) allowed three runs in a loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday. He has completed the fifth inning and allowed three earned runs or less in every start this season.

The entire series will be televised on Sun Sports and Fox Sports SportsTimeOhio and broadcast over the airwaves on the Rays Radio Network and the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.

The Rays come to Cleveland after sweeping consecutive series from the Marlins at Tampa Bay and then in Miami, pulling the team within three games of the Boston Red Sox.

Roberto Hernandez earned his third win of the season with a dominating eight and two-thirds innings of work as the Rays defeated the Marlins 3-1 on Wednesday. The long-time Indians hurler allowed just three hits and a run on the game, striking out five. Closer Fernando Rodney retired one batter in the ninth to earn his tenth save of the year. The Rays scored a pair in the first and added an insurance run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Rookie Alex Colome earned the win in his Major League debut, allowing just an unearned run in the first inning while striking out seven as the Rays were victorious over the Marlins 5-2 on Thursday. Tampa Bay took their first lead in the sixth with a two-run home run by Matt Joyce. James Loney added a solo shot in the seventh and they added two big extra runs in the top of the ninth. Rodney earned his eleventh save in the win.

Moore is on a record-setting pace and is trying to become the fifth-youngest pitcher to start his season with a 9-0 record. He has already set the club’s record for consecutive wins this season. He is 2-1 in his career against the Indians, including his win earlier this season.

Kelly Johnson has been hitting the ball well in the last week. He has a .435 batting average with ten hits in 23 at bats. He has a pair of doubles and home runs and a triple with a team-high nine RBI in that span. In his last twelve games, he has five home runs, 15 RBI, and is batting .364.

Evan Longoria has hit a bit of a cold spell, batting just .167 in his last seven games. He has just four singles and a double with one RBI during this slump. Despite the decreased production, he is still batting .327 on the month and .311 on the season.

Luke Scott is 3-for-5 in his career against Jimenez with a pair of home runs and three runs batted in.

The Indians split their season series with the Reds by winning each of the midweek matchups at Progressive Field this week. Coupled with three straight losses by Detroit to Pittsburgh, the Indians pulled within a half-game of the Tigers for the American League Central lead.

Cleveland ended a five-game losing skid with a 5-2 win on Wednesday. Justin Masterson (8-3) pitched six innings for the win, striking out seven and allowing just four hits on the night. Jason Giambi slugged a key three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth, just one-half inning after Masterson worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam.

The Indians completed the sweep on Thursday night behind the longest outing of the year for Scott Kazmir and a seven-run fourth inning, as they defeated Homer Bailey and the Reds by a 7-1 final. Cleveland completed all of their scoring in the fourth with two outs, stringing together six straight hits to drive in seven runs and to chase Reds starter Bailey from the game. Kazmir (3-2) lasted seven innings on the night, allowing an earned run on eight hits while striking out five

Asdrubal Cabrera has hit in nine of his last ten games, raising his batting average 23 points. He is batting .288 in May after hitting just .226 in April.

Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds are a combined 3-for-20 with eight strikeouts against Moore in their careers. Michael Bourn is the only player on the team to see decent production against the southpaw, batting .667 (two hits in three at bats).

The Indians as a team are batting .314 with runners in scoring position and two outs on the season, good for second in baseball and first in the American League. They are second in the AL only to Baltimore in slugging percentage (.446) and home runs (67), but are tops in home runs on their home field with 40.

The Rays made a roster move prior to the start of the series, due to an injury to one of their starting pitchers. Cobb, who was supposed to start Friday’s game, was scratched after suffering a crack in his fingernail that has limited his ability to effectively throw his curveball. He has been dealing with the problem for the last several starts. He is expected to make his next scheduled start on Tuesday.

Colome was optioned out to Triple-A Durham to make room for reliever Jeff Beliveau.

Last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, David Price, remains on the 15-day disabled list with a left triceps strain. Eligible to come off of the DL this weekend, he just threw for the first time since his injury on Monday.

Indians reliever Chris Perez remains on the 15-day disabled list with mild tendinitis of his right rotator cuff. The same goes for Brett Myers while he recovers from pain in his right elbow.

Lou Marson is expected to continue his rehab assignment on Friday night in Columbus. He has been on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

The Indians also announced Friday that they had signed reliever Chris Jakubauskas to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Columbus. The pitcher had been with Milwaukee’s Triple-A club, appearing in eight games and registering a 1-0 record with a 3.29 ERA. The Indians are his seventh different Major League club. He has appeared for three of those teams over three different years at the MLB level, logging an 8-10 career mark with a 5.58 ERA.

The Rays will take a day off on Monday before starting a three-game series with the Tigers in Detroit. The Indians will head to New York after the weekend for a series with the Yankees before taking a day off.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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