Road-warrior D-backs visit Rays next
The Tampa Bay Rays return home this week after a soggy road trip that included five victories and three rainouts, while the Arizona Diamondbacks have found little but sunshine and blue skies away from home.
The Diamondbacks lead the majors with 13 road victories and have won six of their last seven away from home — despite a loss at Colorado on Sunday — as they enter a three-game visit to the Rays beginning Monday.
Tampa Bay left-hander Blake Snell (2-3, 4.31 ERA) will face former Rays minor leaguer Merrill Kelly (3-2, 3.60) Monday.
The Diamondbacks have won nine of 12 and are 14-5 since April 14 even after failing to hold a four-run lead in the eighth inning of an 8-7 loss at Colorado on Sunday, losing a chance to sweep the three-game series.
“We have to accept that it happened, we have to get on the plane, turn the page and get better from it,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.
“Continuing to build that foundation brick by brick,” added Lovullo, whose team has played well despite the offseason losses of key contributors Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin. “We have a lot of new normals here that I think we are getting used to.
“I’m very pleased with how the first month of the season has gone. We’ve done it the right way. We’ve played hard. We’ve bonded. We’ve trusted. Inside of that, we’re executing.”
The Rays have won eight of 11 series this season but are only 7-8 in their last 15 games following a 14-4 start. They have been held to two runs or fewer in five of their last nine games and are scoreless in their last 12 innings after being shut out in Baltimore on Saturday. Sunday’s game was rained out.
Arizona will play its first road series against an AL team this season, the first time it will need a designated hitter. Lovullo has previously used that spot as a way to get his regulars off their feet and said he could employ the same type of rotation.
Snell, the defending AL Cy Young Award winner, gave up a career-high seven runs in his last start, when he went three-plus innings in an 8-2 loss to Kansas City on Wednesday.
“I saw stuff that I need to clean up that I’d like to keep to myself,” Snell told the Tampa Bay Times. “Through this week, I felt very confident, very comfortable with how I’ve been throwing the ball.”
Snell has never faced the Diamondbacks.
The start probably holds special significance for Kelly, who spent five seasons in the Rays organization after being selected in the eighth round of the 2010 draft. After being used as a starter and reliever with Tampa Bay, he signed with SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization in order to pursue a career as a starter. He was 48-32 with a 3.86 ERA in 118 starts there.
Kelly has won his last two starts and gave up one run in 5 1/3 innings of a 3-2 victory over the Yankees on Wednesday. He has given up more than three runs only once in six starts.