The Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs will meet for the first time since 2017 when they open a three-game series Monday night at Wrigley Field.
The Rays’ visit to the Second City hasn’t gone as planned so far, as they dropped two of three contests on the South Side against the White Sox.
In fact, most of last week unraveled quickly for the reigning American League East champions, who saw their overall play deteriorate against the visiting Oakland Athletics.
Tampa Bay lost three of four to Oakland, being outscored 31-16 and committing four errors. Included in the miscues was left fielder Randy Arozarena botching Cristian Pache’s single and seeing the Oakland center fielder circle the bases for a Little League home run.
It wasn’t much better against the White Sox, as the visitors were on the bad side of a pair of one-run outcomes before Sunday’s 9-3 win salvaged a game in the series.
“It was better,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said after his club broke its four-game losing streak. “Happy that we pulled out a win. Three or four losses in a row can frustrate any club.”
Arozarena and Manuel Margot each registered three-hit games, and the offense produced a four-run first inning Sunday to get the ball rolling.
“When you see the scoreboard read 4-0 after one inning, it gives you a lot of confidence,” said Arozarena, who had two doubles and bumped his average up to .237.
Slated for his third start this season and first ever appearance against the Cubs, Shane McClanahan (0-1, 3.00 ERA) will look to rebound after surrendering three runs on two hits — including a homer by Oakland’s Sean Murphy — over 4 2/3 innings in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss.
In nine innings across two starts, the left-hander has allowed three runs and six hits, while striking out 15 against five walks and one hit batsman. He has yielded just a .188 batting average thus far.
After hitting in seven straight games before Sunday’s tilt, Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki broke a second-place tie with Hideki Matsui (2003) for most consecutive games with a hit to start a major league career by a Japanese-born player.
Former infielder Akinori Iwamura holds the record with nine consecutive for the Rays to start the 2008 campaign.
Batting in the fifth spot, Suzuki went 1-for-3 with a homer against Colorado in Chicago’s 6-4 win Sunday.
A former All-Star and Gold Glove winner for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in the Nippon Professional Baseball, the 27-year-old Suzuki is hitting .400 (10-for-25) with four homers and 11 RBIs for the Cubs through nine games.
Cubs pitcher Drew Smyly, who tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rockies on Sunday, likes Suzuki’s approach.
“He’s been extremely impressive to everybody,” Smyly said. “That’s what’s caught my eye the most: He doesn’t chase. He waits for the pitcher to come to him, and he’s got a really pretty swing. He’s the real deal.”
On Monday, Kyle Hendricks (0-1, 7.00) will take the hill for his third start of the season. He was pounded for six runs, seven hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings in Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 32-year-old right-hander will be making his first appearance ever against the Rays.
–Field Level Media