session_start(); $ref=$_GET["ref"]; if($ref!="") $_SESSION["referer"]=$ref; ?>
Tampa Bay (44-31) and Florida (40-35) have been surprise contenders, with the Rays trailing first-place Boston by one game in the AL East and the Marlins just one game behind NL East-leading Philadelphia.
While Florida is led by a powerful lineup, Tampa Bay depends more on pitching and defense. The Rays are sometimes prone to slumps at the plate, and they've had a tough time on the road in recent weeks.
Tampa Bay has lost seven of its last 10 away from Tropicana Field, scoring two runs or less five times in that span while batting .246. The Rays finished a nine-game homestand Sunday with a 3-2 loss to Houston.
Tampa Bay struggled against Astros pitching after winning all three games against the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs in its previous series.
"You're not going to get it done all the time," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm satisfied with the preparation and intent."
Although he has been the team's least effective starter this season, Sonnanstine (8-3, 4.92 ERA) leads Tampa Bay in wins and is 13-5 in 24 starts since Aug. 15.
He has received outstanding support from the Rays' lineup, getting an average of 5.72 runs to work with. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is averaging 4.51 runs per game on the season.
Sonnanstine has won two straight starts despite posting a 5.23 ERA in that span. He gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings as Tampa Bay beat the Cubs 5-4 on Wednesday night.
The right-hander faced Florida on June 13, giving up three runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings to earn a win as Tampa Bay won 7-3. He also won his only other start versus the Marlins, limiting them to two runs and seven hits in seven innings in a 9-4 win on June 10, 2007.
Sonnanstine is 4-2 with a 4.82 ERA in six interleague starts.
Tampa Bay won two of three games against Florida from June 13-15, but trails the all-time series 35-23.
The Marlins will counter with Scott Olsen (4-4, 3.51), who is 1-1 with a 0.77 ERA in two starts against the Rays. Olsen, though, has lost his last two outings, and is 0-3 in eight games since his last victory against Milwaukee on May 6.
The left-hander gave up five runs - four earned - and a season-high 11 hits in 4 1-3 innings as Florida lost 5-4 to Seattle on Tuesday night. He is 3-3 with a 2.93 ERA in nine interleague starts.
The Marlins could use a strong performance from Olsen after allowing 18 runs in a three-game series with Oakland this past weekend, losing the finale 7-1 on Sunday. It was a rare lifeless game at the plate for Florida, which leads the majors with 112 homers.
Left fielder Josh Willingham will come off the disabled list Tuesday to bolster the Marlins' lineup. Willingham, hitting .341 with six homers in 25 games, has been sidelined since late April with a back injury.