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Jun 27, 2024 2:48 pm

Resurgent Rays set to put winning ways up against Nationals

Yandy Diaz

The Tampa Bay Rays have reached the halfway point of the 2024 campaign, and while it has taken some time, good times finally appear to be ahead.

Manager Kevin Cash’s squad begins its serious second-half push for a sixth straight postseason berth Friday night, hosting the Washington Nationals in the opener of a three-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Rays have won seven of their past 10 games with the kind of performance that could lead to a significant dent in the standings after they were last in the American League East less than two weeks ago.

The fourth-place club is looking up at the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and first-place New York Yankees with 81 games remaining and sitting one game under .500.

The Rays’ bats went quiet in Wednesday’s series finale against visiting Seattle, with a day off Thursday.

The Mariners rallied for five unanswered runs, taking a four-run lead before the Rays loaded the bases in the ninth inning with no outs. Richie Palacios’ RBI fielder’s choice and a double play ended a 5-2 defeat and halted Tampa Bay’s hopes of a series sweep.

The Rays are 2-1 to start a six-game, seven-day homestand.

“We’ve got to play better.” Cash said. “I think we’ve done some better things here of late. We’ve set ourselves back a little bit, and now we have to make up for it in the second half.”

Cash said Brandon Lowe (illness/broken toe) might be available for the weekend after missing the past four games.

Yandy Diaz is currently riding a 19-game hitting streak, which is tied with Jason Bartlett (2019) for the franchise record.

Diaz is also tied for the franchise record with an RBI in eight consecutive games, matching Rocco Baldelli (2004), Carlos Pena (2008), Evan Longoria (2009) and Ben Zobrist (2009).

Included in all of the success is Diaz’s career-best run of reaching base in 28 straight games.

The Nationals bring a familiar face back to the Tampa Bay area in Harold Ramirez.

The Rays designated Ramirez for assignment on June 7, and he was signed by Washington just over a week later. Following a minor-league stint, he was called up and arrived Monday in San Diego.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez, a former assistant coach for the Rays under skipper Joe Maddon, said his lineup will need offense from the 29-year-old career .287 hitter.

“He loves swinging the bat,” Martinez said. “He’s a good teammate, I’ve seen him talking to everybody and stuff. So he’s been good. We’ll get him some at-bats and hopefully get him going. I know he can drive the ball. … We’re going to need him.”

Ramirez went 1-for-4 in his first start Wednesday as the designated hitter, but the Nationals fell 8-5 as they were swept in the three-game series at San Diego.

Making his first appearance against the Rays, Nationals left-hander Mitchell Parker (5-3, 3.30) has a 3.07 ERA in June but is just 1-1 in five starts.

Tampa Bay will start Zach Eflin (3-5, 4.20) in his 15th outing. The right-hander, who has not won since May 13, will make his 13th career appearance (12th start) against Washington and is 4-5 with a 5.13 ERA.

In a series that is 20-20 all-time, with the Rays earning a three-game sweep in 2023.

–Field Level Media

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