Jeff Niemann will stroll out to the mound this evening with the chance to guide the Rays to over .500 for the first time in 2011. The Rays lineup will be trying to support him against Chicago right hander Gavin Floyd.
In Niemann's last start, he went 7 innings against the Twins, giving up 3 runs in his first quality start of the season. His outings to that point in the year had been somewhat troubling, so hopefully he can post a solid start tonight, and Rays fans can breathe a little easier every fifth day when the Big Nyquil takes the bump.
It remains to be seen whether the lineup will include an ailing Johnny Damon, whose left ring finger is still recovering from being hit by a pitch on Sunday. Outside of Matt Joyce’s hot streak, the Rays offense has continued to sputter, but they’ve been generating just enough runs to make a string of excellent starting pitching hold up.
Rays starters have gone at least 7 innings in 8 straight starts now, keeping the bullpen fresh and, more importantly, digging the team out of a massive hole it dug itself in to start the season. In their first 9 games, the Rays only won one time; in the 9 games since, the Rays have won all but once, bringing themselves to .500 for the first time this season last night behind solid pitching from Wade Davis and some key hits from Joyce and Casey Kotchman.
The Rays have won the first 3 games of the 4 game series and would sweep the Sox with a win tonight. Game time is 6:40 P.M.