ANGELS (33-35) AT RAYS (41-26)
7:10 p.m. ET; FS-SUN, FS-W, MLB.TV
The Los Angeles Angels hope to build upon the momentum of two of their biggest wins of the season when they open a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The teams begin the set on opposite ends of the momentum spectrum, with the Angels having swept a pair from the rival Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday and Tuesday while the Rays dropped a pair against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Attempting to erase the memories of one of the most embarrassing outings of his career, the Angels’ Tyler Skaggs (4-6, 4.97 ERA) will face the Rays’ Ryan Yarbrough (5-2, 5.31) will duel in a battle of 27-year-old left-handers.
The Angels used different means to the same end in beating the Dodgers 5-3 two nights in a row. Kole Calhoun homered early and Mike Trout went deep late to key a comeback Monday before Shohei Ohtani and Justin Bour blasted first-inning homers to set the stage for a wire-to-wire win that completed the interleague sweep.
Bour was playing for the first time since getting recalled from Triple-A after an in-season demotion brought about by a .163 batting average.
The homer Tuesday, a three-run shot, was just his fifth of the season.
“Honestly, after a couple days, I felt like myself again,” Bour told reporters about his 19-game stint at Salt Lake. “I felt like I was swinging the bat relatively well. It was good.”
The Tuesday homer, which came of Kenta Maeda, was just what Bour needed, Angels manager Brad Ausmus noted.
“The hardest part is feeling like you’re letting your teammates down, letting the fans down, letting the organization down,” Ausmus said. “There’s a lot of failure in baseball. When you fail to that extent, it can take a mental toll on you as much as anything. I think that happened a little bit to him. As positive as he is — when he came to the ballpark every day, he always seemed to be extremely positive, in a positive frame of mind — it can eat at anyone.”
Coincidentally, Calhoun and Trout also went deep the last time they saw Rays starter Yarbrough, last July at Tampa Bay in a game the Rays won 10-6.
Yarbrough faced the Angels twice last season, coming on in the second inning on both occasions following an “opener.” He was credited with the win in both games, giving him a 2-0 record and 5.56 ERA in his brief career against the Angels.
Yarbrough benefitted in last July’s head-to-head from a seven-run fourth inning the Rays put up against Skaggs. The Angels starter was ultimately charged with 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings.
He is 0-2 in his career against the Rays with a 9.39 ERA in three starts.
Tampa Bay is looking to rebound from two tight losses to Oakland, including a heartbreaker Wednesday in which the Rays tied the game 2-2 in the seventh, only to see Ramon Laureano put the A’s ahead for good with a grand slam in the eighth.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said after the 6-2 defeat Wednesday, “We’re not satisfied with a losing series, but that team over there is a good team. They’re built similar to us.”
–Field Level Media