Preview: Rays can finish road trip on high note in series finale against Mets
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.
NEW YORK — The New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays will experience what it’s like to look across the field and feel as if they’re staring into a mirror for the last time this season on Sunday afternoon when the teams play the rubber game of a three-game series at Citi Field.
The Mets and Rays have combined for just nine runs in the first two games, four of which were registered when New York’s Jose Bautista hit a walk-off grand slam to lift the Mets to a 5-1 win on Friday night. The teams had just eight hits in 77 plate appearances with runners on base on Friday and Saturday.
Such struggles have become routine for the Rays and Mets, who ranked 26th and 27th in the majors in runs scored after Saturday’s game — during which Tampa Bay moved past New York.
The offensive woes have threatened to negate the strong work of both pitching staffs. The Rays (44-44) have a 2.77 ERA since May 19, when they began infusing their rotation with the “opener” in select games.
“I think that with the way we’ve pitched, we find ourselves being in a lot of ballgames,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Saturday’s game. “But when the bats are quiet, it just becomes really, really tough to find ways to win ballgames.”
Starting pitchers for the Mets (35-50), meanwhile, have a 2.25 ERA in the last six games and a 3.94 ERA this year. New York’s three most utilized starters — Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz — are 11-16 despite a 3.06 ERA in 51 games.
“If we win just five games of deGrom’s and Matz’s and Wheeler’s — and that’s being conservative — we’re right where we want to be,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said after Saturday’s game. “And it just hasn’t happened.”
Flexen will make his first start of the season and his first appearance since June 24, when he took the loss after giving up one run in one inning as the Mets fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-7 in 11 innings. He hasn’t started in the majors since last Oct 1, when Flexen allowed six runs (five earned) in 1 1/3 innings as New York fell to the Philadelphia Phillies 11-0 in the season finale.
Eovaldi didn’t factor into the decision in his most recent start Monday, when he gave up two runs in six innings as the Rays fell to the Miami Marlins 3-2 in 10 innings. He has allowed two runs or fewer three times in seven starts this season but has surrendered at least four runs three other times.
Flexen has never faced the Rays. Eovaldi is 1-4 with a 5.01 ERA in nine career starts against the Mets.