Veteran right-hander Shawn Armstrong will make his first start of the season on Wednesday night when the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays go for a series victory against the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The 32-year-old Armstrong (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who is pitching for his fifth major league team, will be making his second appearance of the season after being activated from the 60-day injured list on June 3. He threw two hitless innings with a walk and three strikeouts to close out a 6-2 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday in his return from the IL.
It will be the fourth career start in 205 major league games for Armstrong. He has made 11 career relief appearances against Minnesota, compiling a 0-0 record with a 2.13 ERA.
"It's going to be a bullpen bulk day," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of Wednesday's strategy following a 7-0 win in Tuesday night's series opener.
The bullpen should be well rested after another strong start from Zach Eflin on Tuesday. Eflin allowed just three hits over 6 2/3 innings while striking out nine to improve to 8-1 on the season, including a perfect 7-0 at home.
"He had everything going," Cash said of Eflin. "He's just a really good pitcher who knows how to execute pitches at a level that's really, really high."
Eflin got plenty of offensive support from Luke Raley, who hit a 450-foot, two-run homer off the top of the batter's eye in center and tripled before scoring on a Randy Arozarena single. Jose Siri also homered.
Raley and Siri both have 11 home runs this season, joining three others on the Rays' roster with 11 or more home runs. Tampa Bay, which is an eye-popping 27-6 at home this season, leads the majors with 105 homers and has hit two or more home runs in 31 games. The Rays are also No. 1 in stolen bases with 82 and own the best record in the majors at 44-19.
"It's just a bunch of guys who are playing for each other," Raley said. "It's the little things. Taking the extra base, doing the little things that keep the offense going. Every time we can bring an extra person to the plate in an inning, good things are going to happen."
Minnesota, which will start right-hander Pablo Lopez (3-3, 4.54), brings a three-game losing streak into the contest and has scored a total of four runs over its last four games.
Twins batters struck out 12 times in Tuesday's opener and lead the majors with 625 in 61 games, a pace that would break the all-time mark of 1,596 strikeouts set by the Chicago Cubs in 2021.
Eflin struck out the first four batters he faced to start Tuesday's game.
"The strikeouts, they are an issue and there's no way around that," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "I think I'd be sitting here feeding you something if I told you it wasn't something that we're thinking about and talking about."
Lopez is 1-3 with a 3.72 ERA in five career starts against Tampa Bay, including 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA in three starts at Tropicana Field.
--Field Level Media