ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Even with Sunday’s ninth-inning letdown against a White Sox club that had lost 10 straight, the Rays completed March/April 23-6 to set an MLB mark for most wins before the month of May.
Tampa Bay leads the majors in virtually every major hitting and pitching category, including batting average (.281), home runs (61) and ERA (3.10).
Sporting the best record in the majors, the Rays begin a three-game series at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night against the team with the best record in the National League. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been quite a story as well so far this season with a 20-9 record.
The Buccos, who are 11-5 on the road, have a run differential of plus-48, which leads the NL and is third in the majors. (The Rays lead the way with a whopping plus-103.)
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Though the Pirates lost the services of their top young star, shortstop Oneil Cruz to a fractured left ankle earlier this season, they are third in MLB with a .343 on base percentage and a .792 slugging percentage. Pittsburgh’s 3.55 ERA is second in the National League and the bullpen has recorded an MLB-best 13 saves in 16 opportunities.
Bryan Reynolds, signed to an eight-year extension last week, is hitting .320 with five homers and 23 RBI to pace the lineup. One player Rays fan will not see is Ji-Man Choi, who was traded to Pittsburgh in November for a minor league pitcher. A left Achilles strain is expected will keep Choi sidelined well into June.
Javy Guerra, who the Rays reacquired last week after being designated for assignment by Milwaukee, will be used an as opener Tuesday. Roansy Contreras (3-1, 3.58) was scheduled to pitch for Pittsburgh.
The Yankees, who head into Tuesday night’s game against visiting Cleveland with a 15-15 mark and last in the AL East, follow the Pirates to the Trop for a three-game weekend series. The Rays announced last week that part of the upper deck will be open for each game of the series. Tickets in the 300 level start at $39.
Aaron Judge was placed on injured list Monday and will miss the series. The slugger has been bothered by a hip strain and the hope was that he could avoid being placed on the IL.
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