The Tampa Bay Rays are heating up at the right time, and Yandy Diaz is powering the way.
The All-Star had four hits, including a home run, in Tampa Bay’s 7-4 victory against the Minnesota Twins on Monday in Minneapolis.
Winners of four straight, the Rays will look to stay hot on Tuesday in the middle game of a three-game series against the Twins.
Diaz, now batting .324 on the season, is 8-for-12 (.667) in his past three games. The homer on Monday was his 20th.
“He should be getting some MVP consideration,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “What he’s done offensively, to hit (.324) and to have the home runs and the RBIs from the leadoff spot, it’s pretty special.”
The Rays (89-56) are a season-high 33 games over .500, but they received some bad news after Monday’s win.
Center fielder Jose Siri fractured his right hand when he was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning, Cash said. The injury will keep Siri out of the lineup for several weeks, but reports indicated he could be back for the playoffs.
The Twins (75-69) have dropped two in a row but remain comfortably atop the American League Central, sitting 7 1/2 games up on the Cleveland Guardians (68-77). Facing the Rays is a good test for Minnesota.
“We’ve been playing some tough baseball games,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We ran into Texas. They’re a very tough team. Obviously, Cleveland is battling with us. And now running into a very, very good Tampa Bay club.”
Baldelli, who spent the majority of his major league career in Tampa Bay, is well aware of and how the Rays continue to compete at a high level, no matter who is in the lineup.
“The Tampa Bay kinda ‘machine’ is always active,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a different group of players than (what you) remember the last time you saw them. But they’re so tough. They’ve got a good lineup. We’re going to wind up with a very challenging (series) here at the ballpark.”
On Tuesday, the Rays will start right-hander Zack Littell (3-5, 4.29 ERA). The Twins will counter with right-hander Joe Ryan (10-9, 4.21), who will be facing Tampa Bay for the first time in his career.
Littell, who was claimed off waivers from the Boston Red Sox in May and later switched from the bullpen to the rotation, will make his 12th start and 25th appearance of the year.
In his latest outing, the 27-year-old threw a career-high eight innings and allowed one run but took a 1-0 loss against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.
Tampa Bay is closely monitoring the innings limit on many of its pitchers, and Littell is among them, having already established a personal high in innings with 71 1/3 this season.
“There’s no doubt, all of these guys’ innings are in the back of our mind,” Cash said.
For his career, Littell has made two relief appearances against the Twins, both in 2022. He tossed two scoreless innings.
Ryan was drafted by the Rays in the seventh round in 2018 but dealt to Minnesota as part of the Nelson Cruz trade in 2021.
The 27-year-old enters Tuesday six innings shy of his personal high of 147 for a season, set in 2022. The former Cal State Stanislaus pitcher has 169 strikeouts, a career high.
Ryan enjoyed a strong first half to the season, posting an 8-6 record with a 3.70 ERA in 18 starts. However, in seven second-half starts, he has labored a bit while going 2-3 with a 5.82 ERA.
–Field Level Media