CHICAGO — As the Tampa Bay Rays continue to chase after an American League wild-card berth, manager Kevin Cash points at two critical components for his team’s recent success.
With the consistency of the Rays’ starting pitching and the support of the defense — especially in the middle infield — provided to Cash’s starters, the Rays have remained in contention for a postseason berth.
Tampa Bay’s rotation has fought off the groove that ace Chris Archer has been in of late and continued to carry the torch to keep the Rays trending in the right direction.
Archer was the losing pitcher Saturday night in a 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox when he left the game as a precaution after throwing just eight pitches with forearm tightness and surrendering back-to-back home runs.
Now for the Rays, it’s a case of next starting pitcher up.
“I think (Archer’s success) can have its positive effects,” Cash said before Saturday’s loss that left the Rays four games back in the wild-card race.
“Every game is separated a little bit, but our starting pitchers take a lot of pride in kind of feeding off one another. I think that’s what we’ve seen for the most part over this last 10 games.
“We’ve had some really strong performances. They’re pulling for each other, but they’re kind of going out the next day and trying to one-up the next guy.”
Matt Andriese (5-1) will attempt to keep the line moving on Sunday when he makes his first start since coming off the disabled list. Andriese was sidelined for nearly two months with a hip injury before he pitched three innings in relief against the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 28.
Cash said the Rays will monitor how Andriese looks in the middle innings to determine how long they will keep him on the mound. But as the Rays begin an important stretch, Cash said Andriese will need to be stretched out at some point because of his capability to pitch deep into games.
Andriese will face Chicago for the first time this season and has beaten the White Sox in his only career start against them.
The White Sox, who snapped a four-game losing streak after holding off the Rays on Saturday night, will counter with Lucas Giolito (1-1), who will face Tampa Bay for the first time in his career.
Giolito registered his first major league victory in his last start against the Detroit Tigers when he allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings. Giolito, who joined the White Sox in the offseason after finishing last season with the Washington Nationals, is eager to build off his impressive outing his last time out.
Now, as part of the bright future that the Sox have begun to build toward with a corps of young talent, Giolito will attempt to give the them a split in the series with the Rays.
“It’s a huge relief,” Giolito said of his first big-league win. “Last year didn’t go the way I wanted it to. Now I get the opportunity to be up here again. I just want to take that opportunity and do everything I can to take advantage of it.
“I’m very happy to get the first ‘W’ and I’m looking forward to more.”