The Tampa Bay Rays may not overcome an underwhelming first half, but a recent hot stretch is providing optimism for a club that in years past has never been out of a race.
Chris Archer may be hoping to get back some confidence of his own with another solid outing against the Minnesota Twins.Tampa Bay seeks a fifth straight victory and a three-game sweep of the Twins as Archer takes the mound Sunday in Minneapolis.The Rays (46-53) had a losing record at the All-Star break for the first time in seven years, but they've won 15 of 20 since June 25 after beating Minnesota 5-1 on Sunday. Sean Rodriguez hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs, and Jose Molina added two RBIs.Tampa has made the playoffs in four of the last six seasons and has used some improbable last-season comebacks to get there, including winning three straight elimination games to reach the AL division series in 2013.It is looking to make another strong push down the stretch this year."Just didn't want the All-Star break to put us into a lull, and it didn't do it, or it hasn't yet at least," said David Price, who pitched eight scoreless innings of four-hit ball Saturday. "To come out and play the ball that we have over the past two days after the All-Star break is huge."Archer (5-5, 3.41 ERA) is hoping his last start before the break was just a fluke. He went 3-3 with a 1.71 ERA in his previous 10 outings before allowing five runs and walking three in five innings of an 8-5 loss to Toronto on July 11.His 40 walks since May 1 are tied for the third-most in the AL in that span, but the right-hander didn't walk any or allow an earned run while winning both starts against the Twins (44-52) last season.Archer went six innings in each and beat Kevin Correia on Sept. 13, and the two will oppose each other again in this contest.Correia (5-11, 4.61) had a 6.11 ERA after a loss to Milwaukee on June 5, but he has a 2.30 mark in seven starts since. He's just 3-4 in that stretch, though, since he didn't receive any run support in three straight outings before giving up one run in six innings of a 9-3 win over Colorado on July 12.The right-hander's 3.70 run-support average is one of the worst in baseball."We haven't been doing a good job of scoring runs early for him," second baseman Brian Dozier said. "He's probably leading the league in getting the fewest amount of runs so it was good to get him a lot of run support. Hats off to K-Co for doing a heck of a job."Correia is 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA in three starts against the Rays, who have won eight of the last nine meetings at Target Field.Minnesota won five of six before the break, but it has managed only 11 hits this series, including six in a 6-2 loss in Friday's opener. Trevor Plouffe's two-run homer in the third inning of that contest and Kurt Suzuki's RBI single in the ninth Saturday have accounted for the Twins' only scoring."Every series is key," said Plouffe, who doubled off Price. "We want to win series. Unfortunately we're not going to win this one, we want to salvage the next game, go into the next series and try to win that."