An aggressive offense and a dominant bullpen have the Tampa Bay Rays rolling.
After defeating the host Chicago White Sox 5-2 on Monday in the opener of a three-game series between American League division leaders, the Rays have won seven of eight.
On Tuesday, the Rays will try to keep the rungoing from the moment they dig in against scheduled White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel (5-1, 4.14 ERA).
"If you like it, hit it," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of an approach that helped produce three home runs Monday.
Keuchel is eager to improve on his longstanding struggles against the Rays. In eight career starts vs. Tampa Bay, Keuchel is 1-5 with a 4.78 ERA, with 35 strikeouts in 49 innings.
He has won two of his past three starts, including Thursday, when Keuchel struck out a season-best eight against the Toronto Blue Jays while scattering two runs, six hits and two walks in six innings.
The Rays are set to counter with lefty Shane McClanahan (2-1, 4.54 ERA), who has logged 3 1/3 and 3 innings in his past two starts. He allowed a combined seven runs on 156 pitches in those outings.
McClanahan has not faced Chicago in his career, but he enters with a decided advantage. The Rays lead the American League with a 3.03 bullpen ERA.
On Monday, four relievers combined on five scoreless innings of two-hit ball. Rays starter Tyler Glasnow left the game after the fourth due to inflammation in his right (pitching) elbow.
"The bullpen has just been as hot as any bullpen in baseball," Cash said. "The way they contribute. The efficiency. The stuff that they're featuring against what we acknowledge is a very good lineup, a very good team, to be able to hold it right there ... is the story of the game."
White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada missed the Monday game due to a cold. Chicago manager Tony La Russa said Moncada was experiencing "a lot of congestion."
Added La Russa: "Hopefully, he's got the thing that's bugged a lot of guys, and if it comes quickly, it goes quickly."
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the White Sox, who managed just five hits and went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Tim Anderson had a pair of hits for Chicago while Brian Goodwin, recently called up from Triple-A Charlotte, continued his strong start with the club, delivering an RBI single and a diving catch to rob Randy Arozarena of a hit.
White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal went 0-for-3 while drawing his 52nd walk, tops in the major leagues.
"The (batting) average lovers, there aren't that many anymore," Keuchel said. "It's on-base percentage. I call him the 'Walk God'. I mean, it's impressive -- the command he has of the strike zone, and the power is still there. Ten of his 20 hits are home runs."
Arozarena is batting .324 (12-for-37) during a nine-game hitting streak. He delivered a solo shot in the eighth inning to give the Rays a 4-2 lead.
--Field Level Media