While their recent six-game road trip did not match a franchise record, the Tampa Bay Rays are happy with the way the road swing unfolded.
Manager Kevin Cash and his club return home for a three-game series with the American League East rival Toronto Blue Jays this weekend. First pitch to open the 10-game homestand is Friday night.
Last weekend, the Rays rolled into the Bronx and swept the New York Yankees then bashed their way to two wins in Kansas City against the Royals, who owned the AL's best record when the series began.
In Wednesday night's series finale, Tampa Bay lost 9-8 on Salvador Perez's game-ending RBI single.
If the Rays had been victorious Wednesday, it would have marked only the second time in franchise history they had swept a multi-series road trip, which happened from July 18-23, 2014, when they won all five combined games in Minnesota and St. Louis.
Cash was not deterred after the Royals rallied for two runs in the ninth to spoil the Rays' hopes with a 9-8 walk-off win.
"You've got to be pleased any time you win five out of six," the manager said.
The best product that came out of winning two of three in Kansas City: Tampa Bay's offense woke up, scoring 26 runs in the series.
"It's encouraging to see our team putting up runs like we did this series," said team-leading hitter Joey Wendle, who is batting .365 and has hits in nine straight. "It's nice to get the offense clicking, especially in cold weather like this."
Entering Thursday's games, the Blue Jays -- behind a strong starting staff anchored by newcomer Steven Matz -- topped the junior circuit in pitching with a 3.14 ERA through 18 games.
Meanwhile, the Rays have slipped on the mound this season after a 40-20 campaign last season that ended up with them making their second World Series appearance.
While Tampa Bay slots in at 10th among the AL's 15 clubs with a 4.60 ERA team ERA, the starting staff holds down fourth at 3.87 with opposing hitters batting at a .225 clip.
Friday's matchup will feature a pair of hurlers off to hot starts -- Toronto lefty Matz (3-0, 1.47) against Tampa Bay righty Tyler Glasnow (2-0, 0.73).
After seeing Matz post an 0-5 mark with a 9.68 ERA in nine outings in 2020, the Mets' new leadership sent the Long Island native to the Blue Jays in January for three minor leaguers.
Inconsistent with his hometown club, Matz has regained his old form with his off-speed pitches and breezed through three starts under the guidance of Toronto pitching coach Pete Walker.
"At first I wasn't sure what to expect going into a new organization," Matz told The Athletic. "I had been with the Mets since I was a kid, since I was 18 years old. Now I'm going to be 30 this year.
"But when I got into the organization, it really was a breath of fresh air. It's almost like it energizes you a little bit."
In one start and one relief outing against the Rays, Matz is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 7 1/3 innings.
Glasnow is 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA in six career appearances -- all starts -- against Toronto.
--Field Level Media