After making a strong statement during their first homestand of the season, the Seattle Mariners begin a nine-game road trip against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
Seattle swept a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals over the weekend to conclude a 7-2 homestand that started with games against the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers.
Mariners first baseman Ty France was named American League co-player of the week after batting .500 (13-for-26) with three home runs, 10 RBIs and seven runs scored over six games played.
France, 27, has homered in three of his last four games. He had a career-high five hits on Saturday before adding three more in a 5-4, 12-inning win over the Royals on Sunday.
The native Californian is the first Mariners player since David Bell in 2001 with eight or more hits and two or more homers over a two-game span.
After hitting .291 with 18 home runs, 73 RBIs and an .813 OPS last year, France hit has settled in early this season as the team’s No. 2 hitter. He has a 1.116 OPS through 16 games.
“I think he’s just the definition of a professional hitter,” Seattle hitting coach Tony Arnerich said. “He knows who he is and stays within himself. He knows he can spray the ball anywhere and has a good plan when he gets in the box and stays committed to it.”
Seattle will look to maintain its momentum against Tampa Bay, which has won five of its last seven games.
The teams figure to get well-acquainted with each other since they’re scheduled to play each other seven times in the next 13 days.
The Rays are expected to start left-hander Josh Fleming (2-1, 5.40 ERA), who allowed three runs on four hits over 3 1/3 innings in a 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs last Tuesday.
Fleming, 25, has pitched exactly 3 1/3 innings in each of his first three appearances this season. He is 1-0 with a 5.56 ERA in two career starts against Seattle.
Tampa Bay’s bullpen will be well rested following Monday’s off day. The team’s relievers also received a break on Sunday, when Shane McClanahan tossed seven strong innings in a 5-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.
Pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi, who delivered a two-run double in the victory, has reached base in seven consecutive plate appearances as a pinch hitter.
“When he comes off the bench, you just think 100 percent of the time he’s going to get a hit,” Rays infielder Yandy Díaz said.
The Rays face a tough matchup against Seattle right-hander Logan Gilbert (2-0, 0.54), who has allowed one earned run over his first three starts covering 16 2/3 innings.
Gilbert, 24, allowed six hits, struck out four and did not walk a batter over 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-2 win over Texas on Wednesday.
“I don’t think I had my best stuff,” Gilbert said. “I had things that worked good enough, I guess. I wouldn’t say anything was just like nails, but it was at times good enough.”
Gilbert is 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in two career starts over 10 2/3 innings against the Rays.
–Field Level Media