Tampa Bay Rays vs. Washington Nationals series primer

BY foxsports • June 15, 2015

Time for some split action.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals will become well-acquainted with each other in the coming week, with four games to be played from Monday to Thursday at both Tropicana Field and Nationals Park.

The Rays will host the first two games, and they'll place right-handers Erasmo Ramirez and Alex Colome on the mound at home. Right-handers Matt Andriese and Chris Archer will receive the road assignments to close out the rare series between these teams. They have met just 21 times, counting games between the Devil Rays and Montreal Expos. The most-recent matchup between Tampa Bay and Washington happened back in 2012.

This year, the Rays have continued their hot ways as most of the rest of the American League East has risen as well. At 35-29, they're tied for first in the division with the New York Yankees. But the Toronto Blue Jays (34-30) and Baltimore Orioles (31-31) remain close with recent upswings. The Boston Red Sox (27-37), losers of six straight games, are the AL East's lone struggling team.

The Nationals, meanwhile, have failed to string together victories of late. They took two games from the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend, but before then, they went 5-12 from May 26-June 12. They haven't won at least three consecutive contests since claiming six straight from May 15-22.

Here's a closer look at the upcoming Rays-Nationals matchups ...

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS

WHO'S HOT

Bryce Harper (Nationals): He hit .529 (9 for 17) with two home runs and five RBI in five games from June 9-14. He had three multi-hit contests in the span. He has hit .343 with 21 home runs and 51 RBI this season.

Joey Butler (Rays): He hit .375 (9 for 24) with five RBI in six games from June 9-14. He had three consecutive multi-hit contests in the span, from June 11-13. He has hit .339 with four home runs and 16 RBI this season.

WHO'S NOT

Ian Desmond (Nationals): He hit .048 (1 for 21) with 13 strikeouts in six games from June 9-14. His lone hit in the span came on a single in a loss to the Brewers on June 11. He has hit .226 with five home runs and 17 RBI this season.

Rene Rivera (Rays): He hit .154 (2 for 13) with five strikeouts in six games from June 9-14. He was held without a hit in four contests in the span. He has hit .153 with two home runs and 11 RBI this season.

STORYLINES

2012: Last time the Rays played the Nationals. That year, Washington took two of three games in a series from June 19-21 at Nationals Park. Tampa Bay is 10-11 all-time against Washington/Montreal.

11-4: Rays' record from May 30-June 14. They improved from 24-25 after play May 29 to 35-29 after play Sunday.

5: Victories for Ramirez in his past six starts. He's 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in two June appearances.

QUOTE BOARD

"I'm getting more and more confident. It's definitely the best opportunity I've had, just playing every day, always being in the lineup. And that helps." -- Designated hitter Joey Butler to reporters, after he drove in two runs in the Rays' 7-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Friday at Tropicana Field. He had just 17 at-bats in the major leagues before this season.

"We pitch well enough and we get timely hitting." -- Archer to reporters, after he allowed three runs, five hits and struck out five in seven innings during the Rays' 5-4 victory over the White Sox on Saturday at Tropicana Field. He has won his past four decisions, dating back to May 17.

"Nothing's better than when you do something to help the team win. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was out. It was awesome." -- Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to reporters, after he hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning during the Rays' 2-1 victory over the White Sox on Sunday at Tropicana Field. Chicago left-hander Chris Sale allowed just three hits and struck out 12 in the loss.

LOOKING AHEAD

June 19-21 -- Rays at Indians

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.


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