Rays host Indians in clash of struggling offenses

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Neither the Tampa Bay Rays nor Cleveland Indians have scored much or won much lately, so it remains to be seen which club will emerge from a four-game series at Tropicana Field with some semblance of positive momentum.

"I think a lot of teams go through that," said Indians manager Terry Francona, whose team has scored eight runs in its last four games, losing three. "I think that's the game of baseball. I think we're middle of the pack as offense goes. Sometimes you get to it in different ways."

The Rays (58-57) have even more offensive woes, scoring four runs in their last five games, which includes three shutout losses. For all those struggles, the Rays remain only one game out of the second American League wild card, so there's a sense of being able to escape by righting the ship.

"At the end of the day, if we aren't going to put runs up, it's going to be tough to win," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Cleveland (60-51) still has a 3 1/2-game bulge on Kansas City for the division lead, and the Indians addressed their scoring concerns Wednesday by trading for Mets outfielder Jay Bruce. He has 29 home runs and 75 RBIs, nearly outpacing the Indians outfielders in home runs by himself.

The Rays, having placed Alex Cobb on the disabled list Tuesday, will again turn to struggling left-hander Blake Snell, who was sent down for the second time last week and is still winless in 14 starts this season. Snell is 0-6 with a 4.98 ERA. He has faced the Indians once: In his third career start last spring, he lasted 6 2/3 innings and gave up seven hits and three runs (two earned).

Cleveland will answer Thursday with right-hander Danny Salazar (4-5, 4.32). He has had better luck against Tampa Bay, going 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA and 20 strikeouts against only seven walks in 18 2/3 innings.

The silver lining for the Rays in Wednesday's loss was that starter Jake Odorizzi, who had to be helped off the field in the fifth inning after taking a line drive off his ankle, had X-rays come back negative and was hopeful he won't miss a start.

He said the team's recent struggles at the plate are nothing they can't come back from, given the small momentum of a single win.

"Winning usually cures just about everything," Odorizzi said. "If we can just get a good series against Cleveland. They're a really good team, and it seems like the teams we're playing are hot and we're not. I wouldn't say cold. We're just having a tough time.

"It will be a good test against these guys. If we can win one, get back on track, even with us playing this bad, we're still only a game out of the wild card. Things could be a lot worse. We just need to get on that good roll. I have a lot of faith in us."

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