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The Tampa Bay Rays finished the second-best homestand in their history [url=http://www.detroitlionsteamonline.com]Lions Authentic Jerseys[/url] , with a much easier path between now and the All-Star Game as they try to claw their way back into wild-card contention.

Tampa Bay (41-40) went 8-1 at Tropicana Field, finishing a grueling stretch of 16 games against the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals and going 10-6 in those games to rise back above .500.

Now the Rays have a stretch of 16 straight games against teams with losing records, including a three-game series at the Miami Marlins (34-51) starting Monday.

The Rays have dominated with their patchwork pitching staff, allowing a total of seven runs in their last six games, with five wins and a 1-0 loss. They took three of four from Houston to close out the homestand and hope to continue the success to take some positive momentum into the All-Star break.

“The fact that we have been winning and everyone has been coming together at clutch moments has been great,” said outfielder Mallex Smith, who had a late solo home run in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Houston. “We’ve been jelling as a team. We’ve been feeding off one another. It seems like someone new coming through at the right time every day.”

Next for Tampa Bay is Nathan Eovaldi (2-3, 4.08 ERA), who played for the Marlins from 2012 to 2014 and will almost certainly fare better than his only career appearance against his former team. In June 2015, he played there with the Yankees and gave up nine hits and eight earned runs in less than an inning, leaving after two outs with a 108.00 ERA to show for it.

Eovaldi has shown promise since returning from Tommy John surgery — his last start against Washington lasted six innings and he gave up no runs [url=http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com]Packers Authentic Jerseys[/url] , one and and two walks with nine strikeouts.

The Marlins will answer with Wei-Yin Chen, who knows the Rays from his days with the Baltimore Orioles. He has started 21 career games against Tampa Bay, more than any other opponent, and posted a 5-6 record with a 3.72 ERA.

That’s considerably better than his overall numbers this year — he’s 2-5 with a 6.14 ERA, though his last start was solid. He limited Arizona to one run and five hits in six innings last week. Against Tampa Bay last year, he pitched well, holding the Rays to two runs and two hits in six innings.

The in-state rivals will meet again right after the All-Star break for three more games, but the extended run against lesser opponents is something the Rays must dominate if they want to get back into wild-card contention.

Even after winning eight of nine games, Tampa Bay is still 11 games behind Seattle for the second AL wild card. Still, being 42-41 after opening the season 1-8 isn’t bad, especially considering the injuries they’ve dealt with and the talent traded away since the end of last season.

PLAYERS TO PICK UP

DOMINGO GERMAN, SP [url=http://www.houstontexansteamonline.com]Texans Authentic Jerseys[/url] , New York Yankees (41 percent owned in Yahoo) – It’s looking like the Yankees have found something in German. The surface stats (4.77 ERA) don’t pop out, but his underlying numbers show he’s performing better than the stats. He’s generating a lot of swing-and-misses, and he has a great offense backing him up.

FREDDY PERALTA, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (25 percent) – Peralta got the call earlier this week, and he looks to remain in the Milwaukee rotation for the foreseeable future as the group lacks talent. He relies on his fastball a lot, so he’s going to have to start mixing in some secondary pitches to continue his success. He should be considered a SP5.

SHELBY MILLER, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (6 percent) – Miller is coming off Tommy John surgery right into a two-start week. He’s a risky play next week, but he’s worth the stash to see if he can put it together in the pitcher-friendly environment as a backend starter.

KEVIN KIERMAIER, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (21 percent) – Let’s face it – the stolen-base specialists have let everyone down this year. Keirmaier was activated from the disabled list earlier this week [url=http://www.indianapoliscoltsteamonline.com]Colts Authentic Jerseys[/url] , and while he struggled early in the year, he offers speed, but also contributes across the board. He’s an OF4 in category and roto leagues.

TWO-START PITCHERS TO STREAM

REYNALDO LOPEZ, SP, Chicago White Sox (24 percent) – It’s tough to trust Lopez on a week-by-week basis, but he has two above-average matchups next week against the Twins and the Rangers.

FRANKE MONTAS, SP, Oakland Athletics (23 percent) – Long term, Montas is a reliever, but for this year he’s worth streaming when he has good matchups. He has one against Detroit and then a weekend matchup against the Indians. He’s shown enough that he’s worth the gamble.

FELIX HERNANDEZ, SP, Seattle Mariners (46 percent) – Hernandez has only allowed three combined earned runs in his past two starts. It’s more impressive that those starts were against the Yankees and Red Sox. The success should continue against the Orioles and Royals.

HITTERS TO STREAM

MAX MUNCY [url=http://www.jacksonvillejaguarsteamonline.com]Jaguars Authentic Jerseys[/url] , 1B/3B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (63 percent) – Why isn’t Muncy at least 80 percent owned? Pick him up for next week for his good matchups, and keep him in your lineup moving forward.

ERIC THAMES, 1B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers (47 percent) – The Brewers have six games against the Reds and the Royals. Only one is against a lefty. Thames could have a huge week ahead of him.

JON JAY, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (31 percent) – All Jay has quietly done is produce for the Diamondbacks since his trade to Arizona. The D-backs have seven games against Miami and San Francisco. He can give you a boost in batting average next week.

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network,



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