Phillies-Rays: What you need to know
Phillies (33-38) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (38-31)
7:05 p.m. on CSN
After winning two of three against the Rockies, the second leg of the Phillies’ 10-game homestand begins Friday night with the Tampa Bay Rays. It is the Phils’ final interleague series of the season.
Tampa Bay is in third place in the jam-packed AL East, where all five teams are within 6½ games of one another. The Rays have lost two straight and six of nine. They’re 9-9 in June. The Phillies are 6-13.
The Rays have missed star third baseman Evan Longoria, who hasn’t played since the last day of April and earlier this week suffered a setback rehabbing from a hamstring injury. Tampa Bay averaged 4.6 runs per game in April with Longoria in the lineup and 4.1 since he went down.Interleague records
The Phillies are 4-8 this season against the American League. Three of those four series were on the road. In their only home interleague series of 2012, the Phils lost two of three to the Red Sox.
The Rays are 7-8 against the NL. They lost two of three to the Braves at home in May, swept the Marlins on the road and won two of three from Miami at home, were swept by the Mets at home and most recently lost two of three to Washington at Nationals Park.
Tampa Bay scored three runs per game this week in DC and hit .210 in the series.Starting pitchers
In one of the better pitching matchups of the season, Cliff Lee faces Rays righthander James Shields.
Both pitchers have great track records but have struggled in 2012. Lee is 0-3 with a 3.48 ERA, and has blown three-run leads in consecutive starts. Shields is 7-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts, six of which were poor.
Lee is obviously still searching for his first win, and in his last two starts run support hasn’t taken the blame. The Phillies gave him a 4-1 lead in Baltimore that he quickly gave back on a three-run homer, and last Saturday the Phils staked him to a 5-2 lead that he blew in the eighth inning.
Lee allowed 12 hits in Toronto. It matched his highest hit total allowed as a Phillie. The other 12-hit game came last October in the playoffs against the Cardinals.
Shields went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and 11 complete games in 2011. The 30-year-old righty has been a bit worse this season, but it’s to be expected playing in the toughest division in the more difficult league. Shields has already made three starts against the Yankees, one against the Red Sox, and he’s also faced the Rangers and Tigers on the road. He succeeded against Boston, Detroit and Texas, but has a 7.41 ERA against the Yankees. If you take away those three starts against New York, Shields has a 2.88 ERA.Shields’ repertoire
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Shields throws six pitches in all: a four-seam fastball and a two-seamer, a cutter, slider, curveball and changeup. He’ll mix up his deliveries, especially when in the stretch. He also has one of the quickest, if not the
quickest, righthanded pickoff moves in the game.
His fastballs sit in the 90-93 range.Tampa’s struggling offense
The Phillies enter play with the fifth-highest team batting average in baseball, at .266. The Rays are 27th, at .234.
Matt Joyce has the highest batting average of any Rays regular, at .279.
Second baseman/rightfielder Ben Zobrist is hitting .310 in June, but that’s only brought his season average up to .230. He does rank third in the AL, though, with 47 walks.
First baseman Carlos Pena, who left Tampa Bay in 2011 but returned in 2012, has been terrible since the end of April. He’s 24 for 153 (.157) in May and June, with a strikeout in 37 percent of his at-bats.Head-to-head
The Phillies are 6-12 all-time in regular season games against the Rays, but of course beat them in five games in the 2008 World Series.
The teams haven’t met since June 2009, when the Phils lost two of three at Tropicana Field. In the first game of that series, Pedro Feliz and Chris Coste started, as did pitcher Jamie Moyer, who was relieved by Tyler Walker and Sergio Escalona. Pat Burrell was the Rays’ DH.
Shields has faced the Phillies twice in his career. He allowed three runs in six innings to win his only regular-season matchup with them and pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings to win Game 2 of the 2008 World Series.Key matchup(s)
Pena may not play on Friday because of his prolonged struggles and his career futility against lefthanded pitchers, but he has hit three homers off Lee.
It is Zobrist who could give Lee the most trouble, though. He’s 4 for 13 with four singles lifetime off Lee – nothing special – but he’s the type of disciplined-but-aggressive hitter who could swing early at one of Lee’s early fastballs.
Current Phillies are batting .329 off Shields, with almost all of the success coming from Placido Polanco, Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome. That trio is 21 for 53 (.396) while all other Phillies are 7 for 29.
Thome won’t start, but Polanco and Wigginton most likely will. Wigginton has two homers off Shields, and Polanco must see him very well because the singles-hitting third baseman has two homers and two doubles in 17 at-bats.Sound off
Does Lee pick up his first win tonight?E-mail Corey Seidman at email@example.com