ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays have won three in a row, and they'll try to continue that momentum at Tropicana Field with three games against the Chicago White Sox, who have dropped six of their last eight games coming in.
The Rays (56-53) are coming off a three-game sweep of the Angels, and a win in Friday's series opener would put them four games over .500, matching their high-water mark of the season. Chicago is coming off a win against the Royals, but they've given up at least 10 runs in four of their last eight.
Tampa Bay was as busy as any team at the trade deadline, shipping starter Chris Archer to the Pirates and All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos to the Phillies while acquiring outfielder Tommy Pham from the Cardinals. The moves continued a mid-season makeover that had three other pitchers traded away in the previous week.
As patchwork as the Rays' pitching staff has been, it's still runs a game better than the White Sox, who have the second-highest team ERA in baseball at 5.04, trailing only the Royals. Friday starter Lucas Giolito (7-8, 6.26 ERA) has the highest ERA of any qualifying pitcher in the majors, with seven separate starts allowing at least five earned runs, including his last outing, lasting only 4 1/3 innings and giving up nine hits last week.
Giolito had a 6.73 ERA just four starts ago, so he's making progress, and he's fared well against the Rays, getting a win last year and holding Tampa Bay to one run on three hits in seven innings, striking out 10 batters.
The Rays, having traded away their healthy starting pitchers, will continue to work with relievers as "openers," as worked in each of the last two wins against the Angels. Friday's starter will be Ryne Stanek (1-3, 2.36 ERA), who started Tuesday and pitched in relief Wednesday, throwing a combined 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Stanek hasn't pitched against the White Sox this season, but saw them as a rookie last year, giving up three runs on four hits in one inning for a 27.00 ERA against them.
The Rays are 20-4 in their last 24 at home, the best mark in baseball, while Chicago is among the league's worst road teams with just 17 road wins -- only Baltimore has fewer wins among American League teams.
If Chicago can be especially careful in the fourth inning, that would be smart -- in the three-game sweep of the Angels, the Rays had a combined 14 runs on 13 hits in the fourth inning of those games, including seven runs in Tuesday's series opener.
Rookie Jake Bauers continues to provide a hot bat -- he doubled Thursday and has four straight games with an extra-base hit. Since coming to the majors on June 7, he has 16 doubles, tied for the most in the American League in that span entering Thursday night's games. Another newcomer this year, C.J. Cron, had 18 RBIs in his last 24 games since the start of July, with a .329 batting average.