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Tampa Bay Rays Vs. Milwaukee Brewers: Jeff Niemann Returns

The Tampa Bay Rays (39-33) continue the inter-league portion of their schedule tonight, shedding the DH and heading to Milwaukee to challenge the Brewers (40-33). The Brewers, tied with St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central lead, have played exceptionally at home, leading the league with a 25-9 record. But they are also coming off a devastating road trip in which they went 2-6, getting out-scored 47 runs to 31.

Taking the mound for the Brewers, lefty Chris Narveson (4-4, 4.48 ERA, 3.51 FIP) looks to get his luck on track. Presently, Narveson sports an above-average FIP (fielding independent pitching) rate, but an average ERA. For his career, righties have given him the most trouble, so the Rays may load their lineup with the likes of Justin Ruggiano and Sean Rodriguez tonight.

Jeff Niemann (1-4, 5.74 ERA, 4.89 FIP) takes the mound for the Rays, hoping to get his season back on track. After back problems sent him to the DL, Niemann has slowly worked his way back to the majors, making 3 minor league rehab starts. The bigger issue, however, is that Niemann has not pitched well since the latter half of the 2010 season, when he came back from another DL stint and struggled mightily.

The Rays are likely hoping Niemann returns to form soon, or else Alex Cobb may slide into his rotation spot and Niemann may find himself in the bullpen.

American League Wild Card Standings

New York 41 29 .585 0 Won 2
Detroit 39 33 .541 3 Won 1
Tampa Bay 39 33 .541 3 Won 3
Seattle 37 35 .513 5 Won 1
Toronto 36 36 .500 6 Lost 1
Chicago 35 38 .479 7.5 Won 2
Los Angeles 35 38 .479 7.5 Won 1
Baltimore 32 37 .463 8.5 Won 1
Oakland 33 40 .452 9.5 Won 5
Minnesota 31 39 .442 10 Won 5
Kansas City 31 41 .430 11 Lost 2

(updated 6.20.2011 at 3:22 PM EDT)

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.