Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Indians series primer

The Tampa Bay Rays are hot, and manager Kevin Cash will try to keep his team’s momentum alive against a familiar face from his past.

The Rays will play the Cleveland Indians in a three-game series from Friday to Sunday at Progressive Field. Cash, hired to replace Joe Maddon in the offseason, spent the past two seasons as the Indians’ bullpen coach under manager Terry Francona. The matchups over the weekend will represent the first meetings between Tampa Bay and Cleveland this season, with four more contests to be played between the two from June 29-July 2 at Tropicana Field.

The Rays enter playing some of their best baseball of the season. By taking three of four games against the Washington Nationals from Monday to Thursday, Tampa Bay is 14-5 in its past 19 games. The Rays’ 38-30 record is their best of the season, and it’s good for a one-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East.

This series against Cleveland marks the end of a short five-game road trip. Starting Monday, Tampa Bay returns home for a 10-game stay against the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Indians.

Here’s a closer look at the upcoming Rays-Indians series …

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS

WHO’S HOT

Kevin Kiermaier (Rays): He hit .375 (9 for 24) with one RBI in seven games from June 12-18. He had three contests with two hits each in the span. He has hit .252 with four home runs and 14 RBI this season.

Jason Kipnis (Indians): He hit .350 (7 for 20) with one RBI in six games from June 12-18. He had one multi-hit contest in the span, when he went 2 for 3 in a loss to the Detroit Tigers on June 14. He has hit .335 with five home runs and 28 RBI this season.

WHO’S NOT

Rene Rivera (Rays): He hit .176 (3 for 17) with five strikeouts in six games from June 12-18. He was held without a hit in four contests in the span. He has hit .161 with three home runs and 15 RBI this season.

Carlos Santana (Indians): He hit .136 (3 for 22) with eight strikeouts in six games from June 12-18. He was held without a hit in four contests in the span. He has hit .216 with eight home runs and 33 RBI this season.

STORYLINES

0: Consecutive losses by the Rays since May 30. Tampa Bay has lost only five games from May 30-June 18.

5: Consecutive decisions won by right-hander Chris Archer. The streak stretches back to a May 17 start against the Minnesota Twins.

19: Road victories for the Rays. The total is the most in the AL East. Only the Texas Rangers (21) have more among AL teams.

Tampa Bay Rays on FOX Sports Sun

QUOTE BOARD

"The way the fans responded, that was pretty emotional, pretty high moment for me." — Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to reporters, after he cracked his 13th home run of the season and had three hits in the Rays’ 5-0 victory over the Nationals on Wednesday at Nationals Park. He has hit .223 with 13 home runs and 30 RBI this season.

"I think taking three of four from anybody is big. We were fortunate to come out of here with three wins." — Manager Kevin Cash to reporters, after the Rays’ 5-3 victory over the Nationals on Thursday at Nationals Park. 

"Team win is the No. 1 concern every time I pitch, and that’s what happened. So overall, you have to be happy and satisfied.” — Archer to reporters, after the Rays’ victory over the Nationals on Thursday. He hasn’t lost a decision since dropping one against the Rangers on May 7 at Tropicana Field.

LOOKING AHEAD

June 22-24 –€“ Blue Jays at Rays

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.