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Game Notes: Rays Go for the Sweep

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Moore vs McCullers

J. Meric/Getty Images

In his first outing since early June, Jake Odorizzi tossed 5.2 innings of scoreless baseball in yesterday's 3-0 victory against the Houston Astros. With yesterday's win, the struggling Tampa Bay Rays have pieced together their first winning streak since June 20. Today's afternoon matchup presents the Rays with the opportunity to enter the All Star break with their first sweep since the mid-June series against the Chicago White Sox.

Matt Moore gets the start for the Rays as he will be making his third apperance since returning from Tommy John surgery. In his first two outings, Moore surrendered a combined 15 hits and eight earned runs as he was unable to make it through the fifth inning in either start.

Rookie of the Year candidate, and Tampa native, Lance McCullers will take the mound for the Houston Astros.

First pitch is at 1:10.

<!-- BEGIN WIDGET --><div class="pane sports_data_widget lineup clearfix"><h3>Today's Lineups</h3><div class="lineup"><table cellspacing="0" class="zebra"><thead><tr><th align="left">HOUSTON ASTROS</th><th align="left">TAMPA BAY RAYS</th></tr></thead><tbody><tr><td class="td-last td-name">Jose Altuve - 2B</td><td class="td-first td-name">John Jaso - DH</td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name">Marwin Gonzalez - 3B</td><td class="td-first td-name">Grady Sizemore - RF</td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name">Carlos Correa - SS</td><td class="td-first td-name">Evan Longoria - 3B</td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name">Evan Gattis - DH</td><td class="td-first td-name">James Loney - 1B</td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name">Colby Rasmus - LF</td><td class="td-first td-name">Logan Forsythe - 2B</td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name">Chris Carter - 1B</td><td class="td-first td-name">David DeJesus - LF</td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name">L.J. Hoes - RF</td><td class="td-first td-name">Jake Elmore - SS</td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name">Jake Marisnick - CF</td><td class="td-first td-name">Kevin Kiermaier - CF</td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name">Jason Castro - C</td><td class="td-first td-name">Curt Casali - C</td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name"></td><td class="td-first td-name"></td></tr><tr><td class="td-last td-name">Lance McCullers - RHP</td><td class="td-first td-name">Matt Moore - LHP</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><!-- END WIDGET -->

The Book on Lance McCullers

At the conclusion of his second full season in professional baseball, Lance McCullers' pitching line was far from what the Astros expected out of their 2012 supplemental first round pick. Tossing 95 innings over the course of 25 games in 2014, the right-hander posted a dastardly 5.47 ERA and a 5.73 FIP in High-A Lancaster.

McCullers began the 2015 season with the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, but after only six games, in which he posted a miniscule ERA of 0.62 and an impressive FIP of 2.08, he got the call to the Show.

In his first ten starts of his major league career, McCullers has jumped to the front of a very crowded American League Rookie of the Year race. In 58.1 innings, he has posted a 2.16 ERA and a 2.71 FIP. While he is not striking out as many batters as he did in the minor leagues, he is still striking out almost nine and a half per nine innings all the while posting the lowest walk rate of his professional career (3.24 BB/9).

Earlier this month, Astros' pitching coach Brent Strom issued some high praise to Fangraphs' David Laurila in regards to his surprise Rookie of the Year contender.

"I'd say McCullers' breaking ball is Kimbrel-like at times," said Strom. "That's as good as you can get. I haven't seen everybody's curveball, but I would say the young kid McCullers has a curveball as good as anybody in this game."

McCullers' own pitching coach is not the only one singing his praises, as MLB Network's Tom Verducci has called his performance the "real deal." Highlighting the 21-year-old's 85-mph curveball, his sharp-breaking changeup, and his mid-90s fastball, Verducci broke down his June 24 start against the Los Angeles Angels.

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Here's a look at the rookie's 2015 arsenal:

PITCH VELOCITY FREQUENCY
Fourseam 95 mph

57.14% vs RHH

***

54.08% vs LHH

Sinker 96 mph

0.42% vs RHH

***

0.20% vs LHH

Changeup 90 mph

3.78% vs RHH

***

16.73% vs LHH

Curveball 85 mph

38.66% vs RHH

***

28.98% vs LHH

Noted tendencies and outcomes:

*Against left-handed hitters, 80% of his curveballs put in play are hit on the ground.

*Against left-handed hitters, 51% of curve balls swung at are whiffed.