Washington Nationals with the momentum
  • zhangzk (Larned, KS) November 22

    ST. PETERSBURG Adidas
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    , Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays, routinely using
    relievers as starters to deal with a rash of injuries, are pitching their way to
    victories.


    The Rays (37-40) go into a two-game interleague series against the Washington
    Nationals with the momentum of a three-game sweep of the American League
    East-leading Yankees. New York hadn’t lost three games in a row at any point all
    season, but the Rays pulled it off, capped with a 7-6 win in 12 innings on
    Sunday at Tropicana Field.


    “That’s the best team in the league right now, them and the Astros … I think
    coming home from that we had confidence and it all carried over into that
    series,” said Rays rookie first baseman Jake Bauers, who won the game in the
    12th inning.




    Since beginning their experimental use of relievers as “openers” to start
    games, the Rays have a 3.07 ERA, and entering Sunday’s game Adidas
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    , that edged the Yankees for the best ERA in
    baseball since May 19. They’ve won five of seven games to again challenge .500,
    and Sunday’s walkoff home run by Bauers was their second this season, after
    totaling one in three seasons from 2015 to 2017.


    The Nationals (41-35) had gone 3-9 in their last 12 games before Sunday
    night’s rain-delayed game against the Phillies, dropping into third place in the
    National League East. They’ll send out Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08 ERA), who has no
    wins in his last four starts and his ERA has risen from a sterling 2.10 to
    3.08.


    Gonzalez lasted only four innings in his last outing, giving up five hits and
    two runs against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. For his career against the
    Rays, he’s 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA, though he’s only faced Tampa Bay once since
    2012. That was a rough 2015 start at Tropicana Field, lasting 3 1/3 innings and
    giving up five earned runs on eight hits Adidas
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    , walking more batters than he struck out. For
    his career at Tropicana, he has an 11.25 ERA.


    The Rays will have an actual starter on the mound in Blake Snell (9-4, 2.48),
    who is in line for an All-Star appearance after the first three months of his
    season. He has just one loss in his last seven starts, and while he has never
    faced the Nationals, he has generally fared well in interleague play, going 3-2
    with a 2.33 ERA in eight career starts.


    Tampa Bay, hoping to build on its current momentum, has a tough week ahead,
    with two games against Washingto Adidas
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    , then another four against Houston to
    close out the homestand.


    Washington goes from St. Petersburg to a weekend four-game series at the
    Philadelphia Phillies before returning home for a week.


    The Rays got a head start with a Sunday afternoon game and the Nationals saw
    their prime-time game delayed by rain, keeping them on the field beyond midnight
    and still needing to fly to Florida for the two-game stopover.

    Referee Gene
    Steratore will lead the seven-person crew of on-field game officials working the
    Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

    The other members of the officiating crew for the Feb. 4 game are Roy Ellison
    (umpire), Jerry Bergman (down judge), Byron Boston (line judge), Tom Hill (field
    judge), Scott Edwards (side judge) and Perry Paganelli (back judge).


    The crew has 127 years of NFL officiating experience and 101 combined playoff
    game assignments.




    Steratore entered the league in 2003 as a field judge and was promoted to
    referee in 2006. He has officiated 11 playoff games, including two conference
    championships. He was the alternate referee for the 2010 Super Bowl.


    Under the NFL officiating program’s evaluation system, officials must be
    rated in the top tier at their position to be eligible for the Super Bowl. They
    must have at least five years of NFL experience and previous playoff
    assignments.


    Paul Weidner is the replay official.




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