Steven Souza Jr. is only hitting .222, but his power numbers have provided quite a boost in his first season with the Tampa Bay Rays. Souza, who has reached base eight times in 13 at-bats during the series and belted his team-leading 13th homer Wednesday, looks to punish his former team again when the Rays visit the Washington Nationals on Thursday.
Souza is the only Tampa Bay player with more than seven blasts and he went 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored in the 5-0 victory Wednesday. The American League East-leading Rays send All-Star Game candidate Chris Archer to the mound Thursday in an attempt to win the four-game, home-and-home interleague set after taking two of the first three. Washington fell to 6-13 in its last 19 contests and welcomes back right-hander Doug Fister from the disabled list to oppose Archer. Bryce Harper is 13-for-28 in his last eight games for the Nationals, who managed two hits Wednesday after recording 23 just 24 hours earlier.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, Sun Sports (Tampa Bay), MASN (Washington)
LINE HISTORY: Oddsmakers opened the Nats +108 before adjusting to +118. The total opened at 7.
INJURY REPORT: Rays – RP Andrew Bellatti (DL-Shoulder), 1B James Lonely (Out-Finger) Nationals – N/A
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Rays continue to defy logic with a winning record and positive run differential (+12). They’re doing it almost exclusively with pitching as their (.232) batting average in June is the fourth-worst in the AL. As the pitching falters, the Rays will too as it’s unlikely that run production will suddenly appear from this lineup.” Covers Expert Big Al McMordie.
HOT FAN WAR:
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Chris Archer (7-4, 2.00 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Doug Fister (2-2, 4.31)
Archer allowed three runs over seven innings last time out against the Chicago White Sox while extending his unbeaten streak to seven games with a no-decision. The North Carolina native boasts 113 strikeouts – 51 in his last five outings – over 90 innings and has held opponents to a .196 batting average in 2014. Harper is 1-for-2 with a walk against Archer, who is 5-0 on the road with a 0.51 ERA but lost his only career meeting with Washington.
Fister (forearm) returns to the rotation for the first time in month after pitching six shutout innings while allowing two hits and striking out four at Double-A Harrisburg in his last rehab start on Friday. The 31-year-old California native yielded one earned run or fewer in three of seven starts this season, but has given up 46 hits in 39 2/3 frames overall. Evan Longoria is 3-for-10 versus Fister, who is 2-3 with a 2.88 ERA in six appearances (five starts) against the Rays.
* Rays are 6-1 in their last seven road games.
* Rays are 8-1 in Archers last nine starts as a road favorite.
* Nationals are 1-6 in their last seven home games.
* Over is 5-1 in Fisters last six starts overall.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Fifty-four percent of users are backing the Nationals.