Major League Baseball

Padres welcome Rays for rare showdown

RAYS (69-50) AT PADRES (55-62)
10:10 p.m. ET; FSSD, MLBN, FS-SUN, MLB.TV

Players who were there will never forget the Tampa Bay Rays’ — then the Devil Rays’ — first visit to Petco Park from June 15-17, 2004.

As the Rays were preparing to leave their hotel and head to the Padres then brand new downtown ballpark, a 5.2 earthquake hit the San Diego area. That didn’t deter the Rays, however, they swept that series and have been dominating the Padres ever since — although the teams have rarely played.

But they are playing the next three days at Petco Park for only the second time ever with the Rays hoping to keep their hold on an American League wild-card berth while the Padres are hoping to sustain a little momentum as they enter the toughest stretch of their season.

Tampa Bay comes to San Diego coming off a three-game sweep of the Mariners in Seattle. They have won 12 of their last 15 games and have won six straight road games. They have also won their last seven games against the Padres.

Meanwhile, the Padres just took three of four from the Colorado Rockies at Petco Park to claim their first series since the All-Star break, although Sunday’s 8-3 loss — during which the bullpen gave up six runs in four innings — denied San Diego a much-needed sweep.

Starting Monday, the Padres, who are 10-17 since the All-Star break, play 22 straight games in eight series against teams in the hunt for playoff berths. Tampa Bay, at 69-50, has the second-best record of those teams.

The series opens Monday night with the Padres looking for more length from their starter Joey Lucchesi (7-6, 4.19 ERA) while Tampa Bay is looking for no more than an inning or two from opener Diego Castillo (2-6, 3.50).

In fact, right-hander Austin Pruitt (1-0, 5.16) is expected to pitch the majority of the innings Monday night, although Rays manager Kevin Cash said the “prevailing National League rules” in the interleague series could lead to more action for his bullpen.

None of the three principles Monday have ever faced their opponent before.

This will be Castillo’s third start as an opener. Opposing hitters are only 1-for-7 against the right-hander in the first inning thus far. The game will also mark his 46th appearance. Thus far, he has a 1.351 WHIP, giving up 39 hits and 20 walks with 49 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings.

The right-handed Pruitt, 29, is scheduled to make his ninth appearance of the season. He has allowed 24 hits and eight walks with 17 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Lucchesi will be making his 23rd start of the season with the challenge from Padres manager Andy Green to start going deeper in games.

“We built a little bit of a culture where five innings from the starting pitcher was good enough for the longest time,” said Green. “It’s not good enough if you want to be a championship team. You have to have pitchers who pitch deeper into games so your bullpen is not taxed and exhausted.

“It should not be because they are tired and they’re not capable or they’re mentally not expecting to pitch deep into the game. There are guys we’ve told, give us five and it will be good. It’s not good enough anymore.”

Lucchesi has not pitched into the seventh since June 17. And that was only the third time this season that he pitched seven innings. He has never worked in the eighth.

–Field Level Media

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