ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Texas Rangers have the long-awaited relief of a two-game winning streak as they head to Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Rays have no such relief in sight.
Sunday's 10-4 loss to the Phillies was the Rays' fourth in a row and their 10th in 12 games, dropping them to 3-12, their worst-ever record after 15 games and also the worst record in the American League.
"When you get in that stretch, everything is going wrong -- defense, pitching, hitting," manager Kevin Cash said after Sunday's loss dropped the Rays to 1-6 at home. "It's tough to really evaluate and say something isn't working when right now, nothing is working."
The pitcher tasked with turning that around is Blake Snell, who is coming off his first win of the season, striking out 10 and allowing only one run in six innings in a win last Monday against the White Sox. That dropped Snell's season ERA to 3.60.
He will be making his first career start against the Rangers.
The Rangers saw Bartolo Colon take a perfect game into the eighth inning Sunday but needed 10 innings to edge the Astros 3-1 on a two-run double by Robinson Chirinos.
In their attempt to get a third straight win, the Rangers will turn to left-hander Martin Perez, who has struggled this season with an 11.88 ERA after undergoing elbow surgery in the offseason.
Perez's WHIP is as bad as his ERA as the left-hander has allowed 19 hits in his last two outings, getting tagged for eight earned runs in three innings in his last start, an 11-1 loss to the Angels. He has more walks (four) than strikeouts (three) this season, and he's still seeking his first career win against the Rays as he is with 0-2 all-time with a 5.93 ERA.
"I think my stuff, it was there," Perez told reporters after his last start. "I was just trying to throw a strike and I can't. Just one of those days of trying to do your best but you never get good results back. Not one of the best games."
Last year, he gave up nine hits in five innings, striking out six but giving up five earned runs in a no-decision on May 29 at Texas.
The Rays will go without one of their offensive catalysts, as outfielder Kevin Kiermaier is headed to the disabled list after injuring his thumb sliding into second base early in Sunday's loss. Kiermaier has missed significant time in the past two seasons dealing with injuries, and it's a tough blow defensively for a Rays team that traded away its best other outfielders in the offseason, with Steven Souza going to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Corey Dickerson to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Texas pitching could help the Rays' bats -- Rangers opponents are hitting .267 this season, which is among the highest in the majors. The bat the Rays will have to watch is Joey Gallo, who already has five home runs and 13 RBIs -- Tampa Bay, by comparison, has seven total home runs as a team and is hitting .224
The Rays already have had five "bullpen days" as a staff this season and still have not announced a starter for Tuesday, with Yonny Chirinos making a strong case to be the fourth starter in the current rotation but no full commitment from the coaching staff yet. A strong turn Tuesday could help cement that role as he builds up his arm for longer outings and shows consistent success in getting outs when called upon.