Preview: After walk-off loss, Rays turn to Blake Snell to cool off Astros
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 7:30 p.m.
HOUSTON — There were moments during the recently completed road trip when Evan Gattis‘ teammates appeared to relish his run-production exploits more than he did, scenes emblematic of the prevailing fondness for the Houston Astros‘ bearded designated hitter.
Gattis is among the many catalysts for the Astros, who take a 12-game winning streak into Tuesday’s game with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Astros tied the club record set in 1999 and matched in 2004 when Alex Bregman delivered the game-winning single in the ninth inning in a 5-4 victory.
Before Bregman’s hit, Gattis was named American League Player of the Week, earning the honor for the first time in his six-season career.
Gattis hit .417 (10-for-24) with four homers and 15 RBIs for the week, the latter total representing seven more than any other player in the league.
Gattis has been a house aflame this month, leading the majors with 23 RBIs. That total leaves him six shy of the club record of 29 set by Jimmy Wynn in 1967 and matched by Jose Cruz in 1984.
On May 19, Gattis was mired in an extended season-opening slump and was batting .209. He recorded three multi-hit games over his next five starts and has wielded a hot bat ever since.
“I’m thrilled for Gatty because to know him is to know how much he carries the burden of being the DH most nights,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “And he’s very emotional about it. He wants to contribute; he wants to do well. Had a rough start to the season and going through a few swing changes and a lot of work behinds the scenes and then he busts out and literally carries us for the better part of the road trip.
“For him to be rewarded with that recognition nationally is awesome. For the reaction inside with his teammates and coaches, everybody feels pretty good about him.”
Right-hander Justin Verlander (9-2, 1.61 ERA) will start for the Astros (49-25) on Tuesday. He leads the AL in ERA, WHIP (0.76), opponent batting average (.160) and OPS (.493) while ranking second in innings (100 1/3) and fourth in strikeouts (120).
He is 8-3 with a 3.29 ERA over 16 career starts against the Rays, failing to record a decision when he allowed two runs on six hits and five walks with six strikeouts over seven innings in a 5-3 win on June 15, 2017, with Detroit.
Left-hander Blake Snell (8-4, 2.58 ERA) gets the nod for the Rays (33-39). He is 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA over three career starts against Houston, failing to log more than five innings in any of those outings. Snell has made two starts at Minute Maid Park, going 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA.
Snell has yielded two or fewer runs in 12 of 15 starts this season, tied with Verlander and Yankees right-hander Luis Severino for the most such starts in the AL. That total includes eight starts surrendering one run or fewer, the second-best mark in the AL behind Verlander (nine).
The Rays’ pitcher usage remains a topic of conversation throughout the majors, with the collapse by Romo only fueling those with dissenting opinions on the strategy of employing multiple bullpen days per week. Six pitchers preceded Romo on Monday, with right-hander Matt Andriese producing the longest outing of 2 2/3 innings in Tampa Bay’s 10th loss in its last 11 road games.
“This is a tough one, no doubt,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We sold out to win a ballgame. We got aggressive with the moves; they got aggressive on their side with the pinch hitting. It all basically worked in our favor until the last inning. Leadoff walk, a couple tough pitches, a couple odd things took place and then Bregman comes up and gets a big hit.”