The Tampa Bay Rays' potent offense probably isn't what the Chicago Cubs, generous in allowing runs as of late, want to see.
Even with Marcus Stroman eying a third straight strong start, the Cubs face a daunting task by trying to keep the visiting Rays from handing them a fifth straight defeat onMonday in the opener of a three-game series.
Tampa Bay is a major-league-best 39-16 and leads the majors in several offensive categories, including runs (335), batting average (.273), on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.848) and homers (101). The Rays totaled 38 runs in taking four of their last five following Sunday's wild 11-10 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"To come away with a win in a well-fought game like that is big for everybody," Tampa Bay reliever Jason Adam said Sunday of the club continuing to find ways to win.
Isaac Paredes had three hits with four RBIs, while five others recorded two hits apiece on Sunday for Tampa Bay, which concluded a 7-3 homestand. Paredes is 7-for-20 with seven RBIs in his last five games.
Though the Rays have lost six of their last nine on the road, they pose a serious test for the Cubs. Chicago is 11-24 since opening 11-6 and has been outscored 35-11 during their current four-game skid. Chicago has an 8.00 ERA in those last four games, with its starters having allowed 17 earned runs and 29 hits over 17 1/3 innings.
Stroman (4-4, 2.95 ERA), though, has allowed three runs and seven hits with four walks over 14 innings to win his last two starts. Last Wednesday against the New York Mets, the right-hander gave up a two-run homer in the third inning, plus three other hits, while lasting a season-high eight innings during the 4-2 victory.
"I know how to pitch," said Stroman, who is tied for the major league lead with nine quality starts. "I'm really good at what I do. And, it's just a matter of getting to the point where (I'm at) mechanically, and just rolling start after start."
Stroman, however, has had his issues with the Rays, going 5-8 with a 5.04 ERA in 16 career starts against them. He yielded eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings of an 8-2 home loss to Tampa Bay last season.
Josh Lowe is 2-for-3 with a double and a triple against Stroman and is batting .307 on the season. Meanwhile, teammate Wander Franco is 1-for-3 versus Stroman and is 10-for-19 (.526) with six RBIs in his last five contests.
Scheduled Tampa Bay starter Taj Bradley (3-1, 4.44) makes his sixth major league start since debuting April 12. The right-hander will look to rebound from the roughest start of his young big-league tenure, when he gave up four runs and nine hits through four innings of the Rays' 20-1 loss to Toronto last Tuesday.
However, Bradley did strike out seven without a walk -- giving him 34 strikeouts and four walks in 24 1/3 career innings.
Meanwhile, it's uncertain if Tampa Bay reliever Pete Fairbanks (1.54 ERA) will be available after suffering an apparent hip injury in the bullpen on Sunday.
Chicago's Patrick Wisdom clubbed a three-run and two-run homer during Sunday's 8-5 loss to Cincinnati. He has 14 home runs on the season but is batting .225.
Teammate Christopher Morel hit safely in his first 13 games this season but is 1-for-14 in four games since.
--Field Level Media