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Niemann Returns Home, Rays Go For Series Sweep

In what could be their second sweep in three series, the Rays take on the Astros in Game 3 this afternoon. 

Game Time: 2:05 p.m. ET at Minute Maid Park
Matchup: Jeff Niemann vs. J.A. Happ
Television: Sun Sports HD
Radio: WDAE 620

Recently returned from the Disabled List, the likely-to-be-trade-rumored Jeff Niemann (2-4, 4.82 ERA) will enjoy a homecoming as he faces off against J.A. Happ (3-9, 5.33 ERA). As reminded by mlb.com, "Niemann grew up about 15 minutes from the Astrodome and attended college in Houston at Rice University. Niemann shared mini season passes in the 'rainbow seats' of the old stadium's upper deck with his father and was at Minute Maid Park during the 2004 All-Star Game and the 2005 World Series."

In his only other start against Houston, Niemann performed well before family and friends with a quality start, allowing four hits and two runs. In his first start after spending 45 days on the DL with a strained lower back, Niemann gave up only  four hits and struck out five in six scoreless innings and allowed the Rays to nab an 8-4 win at Milwaukee on Monday. Let's hope that momentum continues. 

Today's lineup:

Damon, LF
Zobrist, RF
Longoria, 3B
Upton, CF
Rodriguez, 2B
Kotchman, 1B
Shoppach, C
Johnson, SS
Niemann, P

Johnny Damon continues to get the nod in left field, Casey Kotchman was dropped back down to sixth in the order after batting clean up (well) yesterday and Evan Longoria remains third in the order. Since shedding his batting gloves, Longoria is hitting .500. The last time B.J. Upton (also-likely-to-be-trade-rumored this season) hit clean up, Longo and Bossman hit back-to-back homeruns; Upton hit a homerun yesterday as well. More of the same please. The Rays bats have been on fire in interleague play and have won seven of their last eight games.

Also, Tampa Bay pitchers are still hit-less in interleague play. Gotta love the National League.

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