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Rays excited about healthy lineup as Brewers come to town

Sportsnaut
Jun 26, 2022; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Randy Arozarena (56) is congratulated by  center fielder Josh Lowe (15) after he scores a run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Wander Franco is back, Isaac Paredes continues to hit and the Tampa Bay Rays are feeling optimistic about their offense again as they get set to open a two-game interleague series Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The matchup will bring back memories of last season’s trade when the Brewers landed shortstop Willy Adames from the Rays, while Tampa Bay received pitchers Drew Rasmussen and J.P. Feyereisen, both of whom currently are on the injured list.

After missing 23 games because of a strained right quadriceps, Franco was back in the Tampa Bay lineup Sunday and had a hit in five at-bats during a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Rays have won four of five following a skid where they lost six of seven.

The Rays have averaged just 4.06 runs per game so far this season, well below their 5.29 mark from 2021, which was second-best in the majors. They also have averaged 0.93 home runs this season, compared to 1.37 last season.

Franco’s return should help their run-scoring prospects, while Paredes is doing his part. Paredes had his second-consecutive three-hit game Sunday, and is now 10-for-15 (.667) with five home runs and nine RBIs over his last four contests.

“He’s seeing the ball really well,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Paredes, who was acquired in a trade from the Detroit Tigers in April. “We’re learning a little bit about him as we go. We’re impressed with his presence, his calmness in the box and his confidence.”

The Rays are set to send rookie right-hander Shane Baz (0-1, 4.15 ERA) to the mound for his seventh career start and fourth this season. He will make his first career start against the Brewers after giving up one run over 4 2/3 innings to the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

The Brewers already had a taste of American League East life over the weekend when the National League Central leaders took two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays, including a 10-3 victory at home Sunday.

Rowdy Tellez hit two home runs Sunday, while Adames had three hits as the Brewers won for the seventh time in their last 10 games. Milwaukee acquired Adames in May 2021 with Franco just about ready to take over at shortstop in Tampa Bay.

“It’s a day where the offense really picked us up and gave us a great cushion,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said about Sunday’s victory. “Obviously, Rowdy had a big day but up and down the lineup a lot of guys did good things. They carried us. They made pitchers’ jobs much easier.”

That trade has helped both teams as the Brewers landed a dependable shortstop, allowing Luis Urias to move into a utility role. They also landed right-hander Trevor Richards, whom they later packaged in a deal to get Tellez from the Blue Jays.

With the Rays, Drew Rasmussen (hamstring) was 5-3 with a 3.41 ERA in 12 starts before going on the IL, while Feyereisen (shoulder) did not give up an earned run in 24 1/3 innings out of the bullpen before going on the shelf.

The Brewers are set to welcome back right-hander Brandon Woodruff (5-3, 4.74) from an ankle injury to start Tuesday’s game. He last pitched May 27. Woodruff has faced the Rays just once, in his first MLB appearance in a 2017 start, earning the win with 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

–Field Level Media