Streaking Rays set to host the Mets
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.