ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Los Angeles Angels have won three straight, holding the Tampa Bay Rays to two runs in the past two games, but manager Mike Scioscia would like to see his bats make it easier on his pitchers.
The Angels (25-23) and Rays (23-25) meet for the third game of a four-game series on Wednesday at Tropicana Field.
“The big thing that we are really going to need is our offense to catch up to start doing some of the things that we can do,” Scioscia said after the Angels posted a 4-0 win over the Rays on Tuesday night. “Our offense tonight, we got four, but we had bases loaded, nobody out, and couldn’t get anything out of that. We’re just waiting for that offense to give us that continued pressure we can put on teams.”
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Tuesday was what the Angels have come to expect from the top half of their lineup — Cameron Maybin hit a game-opening homer, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols scored three of the four runs, shortstop Andrelton Simmons went 3-for-3 and Luis Valbuena added two hits.
The Rays haven’t been so successful, going a combined 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position in their two losses to the Angels. After an offensive surge in which they scored at least five runs in a six-game stretch while going 5-1, Tampa Bay haS four runs in three games, dropping back to two games under .500.
“Wouldn’t be surprised if we really turn it on tomorrow night,” an optimistic Rays manager Kevin Cash said after the Tuesday loss. “We can hit. We know we can hit, and we will hit.”
The Rays came a foot or two away from a different ballgame on Tuesday, as Colby Rasmus’ shot to right field bounced off the fencing at the top of the wall, resulting in a single instead of a go-ahead three-run home run.
If the Rays are to get back in rhythm at the plate, they will have a chance to do so Wednesday against Angels right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who is 2-3 with a 4.01 ERA on the season.
Nolasco has struggled at Tropicana Field. In four career starts there, he has a 7.36 ERA, giving up 18 earned runs in 22 innings, though it is been three years since his last appearance in Tampa Bay. He had a tough-luck outing in his most recent start, making his first quality start of 2017 but still taking the loss despite holding the New York Mets to two runs (one earned) in six innings on Friday.
The Rays, who sent young lefty Blake Snell down to the minors last week, seek another good start from converted reliever Erasmo Ramirez, who is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA after spending most of the season in the bullpen. Ramirez has pitched well against the Angels, amassing a 3-2 career record and 2.41 ERA. He won in his last start against the Angels in 2015, giving up two runs in five innings.
As the Angels aim to extend their winning streak, pitching continues to set the tone.
“The real constant is our starting pitching has been pretty consistent getting us to the point in the game where our bullpen is starting to evolve,” Scioscia said Tuesday. “Our bullpen did a great job, but sometimes we’re going to need some breathing room.”