Rays feeling happy at home

Updated: May 12, 2008

AP Photo/Mike Carlson

B.J. Upton and the Rays are hitting 30 points higher at home than they are on the road.

SWEET HOME DOME

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While the Marlins have taken care of business on the road, compiling one of the best records in the NL, their Florida counterparts are enjoying greater success than ever before at home.

The Rays posted an easy victory against the Yankees on Monday for their 10th straight home win and fifth in a row overall. Tampa Bay is now six games over .500 for the first time, and the Rays look like legitimate contenders, having swept the Red Sox and Angels already at Tropicana Field this season.

Tampa Bay is winning with its pitching. Another young arm was impressive Monday, with Matt Garza shutting down the Yankees for seven innings. There may be plenty of good seats still available at Tropicana Field -- only 13,932 showed up Monday -- but that may not last long if the Rays are able to maintain this level of success over the next couple of months.

SAY HEY, RAYS
2008 Home Road
W-L 14-7 8-9
Runs Per Game 4.4 5.0
Team BA .272 .242
HR 16 22
Team ERA 2.97* 4.93
HR Allowed 15 19

* 5.02 ERA at home in 2007

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: May 11 | May 8 | May 7 | May 6 | May 5 | May 4

MINNESOTA HANGING TOUGH IN AL CENTRAL

With the Cleveland Indians coming off a 96-win season and all the hype surrounding the Detroit Tigers, I thought it would take 95 wins to win the AL Central this year. But almost one-quarter of the way through the season and we're talking about a team three games over .500 leading the division. You have to give the Minnesota Twins credit: They might not be the most talented team, but they compete every single night.

The key for Minnesota right now has been its gritty starting pitching. On Sunday, against Boston, Nick Blackburn wasn't sharp, but he hung around for six innings and didn't force manager Ron Gardenhire to go to his bullpen sooner than he wanted. Blackburn battled and didn't lose his composure, something that's quite common with young pitchers. Blackburn's ability to keep his cool is a perfect example of the impact Livan Hernandez has had on the rotation. He's always calm on the mound, regardless of the situation. The 33-year-old is ideal for a young pitching staff, because win or lose, Hernandez shows it's all about execution and being yourself on the mound, and not getting caught up in the situation. The moment a young pitcher takes the mound, he instantly thinks he's in a tough situation simply because he's in the big leagues. Hernandez is a very settling influence for a young pitching staff.

The loss of reliever Pat Neshek (likely for the season) will hurt, but Dennys Reyes and Matt Guerrier have done a nice job bridging the gap to closer Joe Nathan. However, I do think the loss of Neshek means Nathan will be called on to get more than just three-out saves.

Teams with talent or teams that have desire can play .500 ball. Teams that have both talent and desire can do something special. Minnesota may not have the talent to play championship baseball for 162 games, but the Twins have the dedication and desire to be a .500 team. If the AL Central continues to be as weak as it has been the first quarter of season, then the Twins should be able to hang around because they're fundamentally sound and have a roster full of gamers.

FORWARD THINKING: TUESDAY

Edinson Volquez • Marlins at Reds, 7:10 p.m. ET: Edinson Volquez (5-1, 1.06 ERA) hasn't allowed more than one earned run in any of his starts. He leads the league in ERA and is second in strikeouts behind Tim Lincecum. Mark Hendrickson (5-1, 3.56 ERA) is coming off his shortest outing of the season after needing 109 pitches to get through just 4 1/3 innings against Milwaukee.

Chien-Ming Wang • Yankees at Rays, 7:10 p.m. ET: Chien-Ming Wang (6-1, 3.12 ERA) has more wins against the Rays and Mariners (seven) than any other team he's faced. Edwin Jackson (2-3, 4.04 ERA) took care of the other AL East superpower his last time out, shutting out the Red Sox over eight innings. He's 2-2 against the Yankees.

Josh Beckett • Red Sox at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. ET: Josh Beckett (4-2, 3.70 ERA) has permitted more than three hits in just one of his past five starts. Opponents are hitting 12 points lower against Jeremy Guthrie (1-3, 4.32 ERA) this year (.242) than over his career (.254).

Complete list of pitching probables for Tuesday's games


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BBTN ON THE AIR: TUESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Buck Showalter, Eric Young
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Eric Young, Buck Showalter

BASEBALL TONIGHT MINUTE: TRIPLE PLAY

MONDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

GOOD
Cliff LeeCliff Lee and Shaun Marcum traded zeroes all night Monday. Marcum tossed eight shutout innings, giving up just two hits. Lee lowered his ERA to 0.67 after throwing nine shutout innings.
BAD
• The Pirates won Monday, despite the efforts of their defense. Pittsburgh committed four errors in a 5-0 win against the Braves. Three of the errors came on botched grounders, the other on a bad throw.
UGLY
Clay BuchholzClay Buchholz was knocked around by the Twins, lasting just 4 1/3 innings, and giving up eight hits and seven runs in a 7-3 loss.

FANTASY FIRST TAKE: CLOSER CAROUSEL

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF TUESDAY'S GAMES

Sean Allen examines the pitching matchups in store for the 15 games on Tuesday's schedule in the American League and National League.

Fantasy Allen also looks at injuries and details player reports that could help shape the way you put together your roster for Tuesday's games. Daily Notes

NEWS AND NOTES

Mark Teixeira• The Braves' Mark Teixeira left Monday's game against Pittsburgh in the fourth inning with back spasms.

Shin-Soo Choo• Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (elbow surgery) is expected to head to Triple-A Buffalo and begin a rehab assignment.

THIS DATE IN MLB HISTORY (MAY 6)

1929: At Cleveland's League Park, the Indians beat the Yankees 4-3. It was the first game in major league history in which players from both teams wore numbers on the back of their jerseys.

1958: As a pinch hitter, Stan Musial collected his 3,000th hit off Moe Drabowsky as the Cardinals beat the Cubs 5-3.

1993: One day before his 40th birthday, George Brett got his 300th career home run, joining Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Mays and Al Kaline as the only players with 300 HRs and 3,000 hits.

2001: Alex Rodriguez became the fifth-youngest (25 years, 289 days) player to hit his 200th career homer. Mel Ott accomplished the feat in 1934 at the youngest age (25 years, 144 days) followed by Eddie Mathews (25 years, 243 days), Jimmie Foxx (25 years,267 days) and Mickey Mantle (25 years, 280 days).