The Rays are hoping to stay on a winning streak against the Brewers

THE Tampa Bay Rays 20 games over .500, the best record in the majors. Still, they play with a sense of urgency

“Three in a row is not something we ever want to see,” closer Pete Fairbanks said of missing three games for the first time this season. Rays‘ three game series a Milwaukee Brewers

Tampa Bay responded with a 1-0 victory Friday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., setting up a chance to close out the series on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s a good step forward going into the week at home,” said Fairbanks, who picked up his fourth save on Friday.

THE Rayswho have just completed a 4-6 road trip, face the Brewers a team that has been eliminated in two games in a row

Friday night, Milwaukee went 0-9 with runners in scoring position.

THE Rays will send right-hander Zach Eflin (5-1, 3.38 ERA) to the mound on Saturday. THE Brewers counters with left-hander Eric Lauer (4-4, 4.54)

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Eflin, who was added as a free agent in the offseason, came as advertised, winning six of Tampa Bay’s seven starts.

In his last game, Eflin struck out nine in six innings in a win over the host New York Yankees on Sunday. He gave up four runs, but the Rays 8-7 victory with a grand slam by Taylor Walls

Tampa Bay looked to Eflin for innings in that start because of a taxed bullpen.

“I thought it was really good.” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Eflin. “I told him it was a pretty gutsy performance because he knew where the bull was and the condition of it. We needed him to find a way to get through the sixth and he did.

The last time Eflin faced the Brewers, was with the Philadelphia Phillies. On June 9, 2022, the right-hander gave up one run in four innings. Eflin has five career starts against Milwaukee through 2018, going 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA.

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Lauer’s last start was on May 9, when he went four innings in a 6-2 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. It capped a three-start streak in which he lasted a total of 11 1/3 innings while posting a 5.56 ERA.

Manager Craig Counsell left Lauer out of the rotation, but there was no word on when he might return. Lauer likely boosted his inventory Sunday when he pitched 5 1/3 innings of two-run relief. Brewers He beat the visiting Kansas City Royals 9-6

Lauer later admitted that this was what he needed.

“Overall, it was a good job that I wanted to go out and feel, I mean, get on the mound, compete, let it go and not worry about how long I’m going to be there and how many pitches I’m going to have to throw,” he said. “That’s the bull mentality I have to have. It was a good flip-switch for me.”

Lauer faced the Rays twice previously, with no decisions and a 5.79 ERA in 9 1/3 innings. The last game was on June 29, 2022, when he gave up three runs on six hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. Brewers won 5-3 in Saint Petersburg

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— Field Level Media