LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers have their sights on the San Francisco Giants again and possibly overtaking them atop the National League West standings.
After taking two of three in a weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals to cap a 5-4 road trip, the Dodgers begin a five-game homestand with a two-game set beginning Tuesday with the Tampa Bay Rays.
A first-inning grand slam by Adrian Gonzalez highlighted Sunday’s 9-6 victory over the Cardinals and allowed Los Angeles (56-44) to cut NL West-leading San Francisco’s lead to three games, down from 6 1/2 at the All-Star break. The Giants, who lost three of four to the New York Yankees over the weekend, have been beaten in seven of their last eight games.
"I think we always felt we had a chance," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said about his club’s pursuit of the rival Giants, according to the Orange County Register. "We just weren’t playing the baseball we were supposed to be playing. There’s still a lot of baseball. I know people talk about the standings but I think we’re just hyper-focused on ourselves. Our goal is to win the division. That’s never changed."
Is more change in order? The Dodgers are rumored to have interest in Rays right-hander Chris Archer (5-13, 4.60 ERA), who is scheduled to start Tuesday night.
The fact that Los Angeles president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman worked for Tampa in a similar capacity for nine seasons before being lured here adds to the intrigue. A deal for Archer might shore up some of the void left by injured ace Clayton Kershaw, who is on the 15-day disabled list with mild disc herniation and whose return is unknown.
Regardless, the Rays (38-60) are hurting. They are in the midst of a three-game skid and are one of the American League’s worst teams. They dropped the last three in a four-game set with the Oakland A’s in dramatic fashion.
After capturing Thursday’s opener, Tampa allowed the A’s to earn walk-off celebrations in Friday’s and Saturday’s games. On Sunday, Oakland rallied for a 3-2 victory with a two-run eighth on homers by Logan Forsythe and Billy Butler, the latter being the game-winner off reliever Erasmo Ramirez.
"It’s unfortunate," Rays manager Kevin Cash said after Sunday’s loss, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "There’s many ways to lose ball games. We like to be in tight ball games. You’ve got to pride yourself on finding a way to win those ball games. And Logan Forsythe did. He got a huge hit off a very good pitcher. And again we came up short.
"Believe me, we’re all sick and tired of hearing we came up short. But that’s kind of what it is right now."
Los Angeles will counter with righty Bud Norris (5-9, 4.56 ERA). In his last appearance Friday night, Norris served up a walk-off home run in relief to Matt Adams of the Cardinals in a 4-3 setback in 16 innings.
The last time Norris faced the Rays occurred on Sept. 7, 2014, when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Norris gave up four runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and two walks in six innings, but did not factor into the decision in the Orioles 7-5 victory. In seven career games (six starts) against the Rays, Norris has a 1-2 mark with a 4.62 ERA. He has fanned 37 Rays in 37 innings.