Mets-Rays Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays’ recent offensive surge has helped them bust

out of a slump that lasted over a week.

It’s been quite the opposite for the New York Mets lately.

Tampa Bay seeks its fifth consecutive victory while looking to

send New York to its seventh defeat in eight games when the teams

begin their first series at Tropicana Field since 2001 on Tuesday

night.

The Rays (35-25) have outscored opponents 29-10 during their

four-game winning streak, defeating Miami 4-2 on Sunday to complete

a three-game sweep.

Elliot Johnson hit a two-run homer and Matt Joyce added a solo

shot for Tampa Bay, which averaged 2.6 runs while dropping six of

eight May 28-June 6.

Johnson went 5 for 8 with five RBIs in the last two games, and

Joyce has homered in two of his last three to give him a

team-leading 11.

“It’s a little bit of a roller coaster. That’s the way hitting

goes, that’s the way baseball goes,” Joyce told the team’s official

website. “There’s ups and downs. And it was just a case of we had

to keep swinging it. The offense is going to come around, and

hopefully we keep it going.”

The Rays’ last loss was Wednesday’s 4-1 defeat to the New York

Yankees, when Alex Cobb allowed four runs in seven-plus innings.

Cobb (2-2, 4.13 ERA) only gave up two hits in the first seven

frames before yielding three consecutive hits to start the

eighth.

“I felt pretty comfortable,” Cobb said. “From the first inning

on, I was able to locate my fastball pretty well and fairly early

on I was able to throw my changeup in and out of the zone.

“… “I’m able to throw any pitch in any count with conviction,

and feel confident with that pitch.”

If he can back up those words it might mean trouble for the

Mets, who totaled seven runs while being swept by the Yankees over

the weekend.

New York (32-29) has dropped six of seven after Sunday’s 5-4

loss on Russell Martin’s walk-off homer.

“It feels rough,” said Scott Hairston, who went 2 for 4. “Every

team goes through their ups and downs, and we just had our

downtime.”

Chris Young (0-0, 3.60) will be making his second start since

returning from capsule surgery on his right shoulder last April. He

allowed three runs in five innings of last Tuesday’s 7-6 loss in 12

innings at Washington.

The 6-foot-10 right-hander’s wife then gave birth to the

couple’s third child hours later, and Young took a few days of

paternity leave.

“I was just hoping that I wouldn’t get overly excited to where I

throw the ball all over the place,” Young told the Mets’ official

website of his first start in more than 13 months. “I wanted to

stay calm and hit my spots and work ahead in the count, and for the

most part, I did that.”

Young hasn’t faced Tampa Bay since a 10-8 loss Aug. 2, 2005,

while pitching for Texas.

The Rays took two of three from the Mets from June 19-21, 2009,

in the teams’ last series, and they’ve won five of the last seven

meetings overall.