MLB: Nathan Eovaldi, dominant at home, looks to lead Rangers to sweep of Rays

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Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will try to build on his record home start to the season when the Texas Rangers attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon in Arlington, Texas.

Eovaldi (5-3, 3.15 ERA) has allowed two runs or less in each of his nine starts at Globe Life Field, the longest stint to open a season in club history. He surpassed Kyle Gibson’s mark of eight such games to start the 2021 season.

Eovaldi set the record with a 7-0 win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, allowing just one hit over seven innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out six.

“Definitely love pitching at home and having the energy from the crowd,” Eovaldi said after the game. “Tonight we had some really good defensive plays behind me, and that always helps.”

“He had a good pace going, pounded the strike zone,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said.

Eovaldi is 8-6 with a 3.60 ERA in 18 career appearances (16 starts) against Tampa Bay and has won his past four starts against the Rays, including a 4-1 road victory on April 3, when he allowed just four hits over seven shutout innings while striking out eight.

Tampa Bay had a streak of five consecutive series wins snapped with a 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Saturday, which followed a 3-0 loss in the series opener on Friday.

Saturday, the Rangers’ Marcus Semien hit a two-run, go-ahead homer in the seventh to snap a 22-game homerless streak, which started June 11. The 422-foot blast deep into the left-field bleachers was just his fourth hit in a 43 at-bat stretch and came after Yandy Diaz had put the Rays ahead with a three-run homer in the top of the seventh.

“The guys were pumped. We were all pumped,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Diaz’s homer. “Big hit. In the moment, huge hit.”

But Semien quickly changed momentum back to the Rangers in the bottom half of the inning with his 12th home run of the season, off reliever Kevin Kelly, driving in Leody Taveras, who had singled.

“I had a swing to win the game,” Semien said. “That’s all I can ask for as a major league player. I want to build on that. I don’t want to talk about struggles. I want to talk about the good things, like that swing, getting on base, scoring runs and just doing things that will help us.”

He impressed his manager, too.

“Great answer after that two-out, two-strike, three-run homer to put them ahead,” Bochy said. “Just a great job on answering back. Marcus got all of it. It’s good to come from behind.”

Right-hander Zack Littell (3-5, 3.94 ERA) will get the start for Tampa Bay in the series finale. Littell is 0-1 with a 2.31 ERA in seven career appearances (two starts) against Texas. He won his most recent start, 5-1, at rainy Kansas City on Tuesday after allowing four hits and striking out four over five shutout innings.

It was the first time since his season debut on March 30, a 5-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, that Littell recorded a scoreless outing. That afternoon he scattered four hits and two walks over six innings while striking out six.

The Rays have lost back-to-back games for the first time since June 14-15 against the Atlanta Braves.

–Field Level Media

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