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  W: C. Morton (4-0)   L: C. Smith (3-1)
4:10 PM PT5:10 PM MT6:10 PM CT7:10 PM ET19:10 ET23:10 GMT7:10 4:10 PM MST6:10 PM EST6:40 PM VEN3:10 UAE (+1)6:10 PM CT, May 14, 2019
Marlins Park, Miami, Florida  Attendance: 6,306

Surprise pitchers' duel on tap in Miami

When the Tampa Bay Rays and the host Miami Marlins meet for the first time this year on Tuesday night, the pitching matchup will feature two of the most underrated starters in the majors.

Marlins left-hander Caleb Smith, a late bloomer at age 27, is in his second full major league season and has been dominant so far -- 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

He didn't go to a big-name university (Sam Houston State), and he wasn't a top draft pick (14th round). But in his past five starts, Smith has a 1.42 ERA with 41 strikeouts and nine walks in 31 2/3 innings.

In fact, he struck out a career-high 11 batters in his most recent start, allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings before settling for a no-decision against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.

"It was good to see Caleb pitch like that," Marlins manager Don Mattingly told the media. "He had been having trouble in cold weather."

Smith was scheduled to start on Sunday, but Miami's game at the New York Mets was postponed due to heavy rain. Tuesday's game will mark the first time this season that Smith pitches on six days of rest.

Tampa Bay will counter Miami with right-hander Charlie Morton, a 35-year-old who is an even later bloomer than Smith.

In his first nine years in the majors -- all of them in the National League -- Morton sported a 46-71 record. However, since coming to the American League in 2017, Morton has been a revelation with a 32-10 record. He won a World Series title with the Houston Astros in 2017 and made his first All-Star team in 2018.

Morton is also 3-0 with a 2.64 ERA this season. He is striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings, just short of Smith's stat line.

He has made 12 career starts against the Marlins, going 6-4 with a 4.09 ERA. However, he has yet to face the Marlins since he arrived in the American League.

Starting pitchers aside, the Rays -- who are contenders in the American League East -- and the last-place Marlins (National League East) are very different. The standings show that quite clearly.

Despite the lack of wins, the Rays have gotten production from some sources. Perhaps no source has been greater than third baseman Yandy Diaz. The 27-year-old leads the Rays in homers with nine in 135 at-bats. In his previous two major league seasons, Diaz had a total of just one homer over 265 at-bats.

"It's me getting to the ball faster," Diaz told The Tampa Bay Times when asked about his new approach this year. "That has created more power."

Perhaps Tampa Bay's best hitter is Austin Meadows, who has been used eight times as the designated hitter. With the DH not in play in an NL stadium, Meadows will likely play a corner outfield spot in order to keep his bat in the lineup. Though he does not have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, Meadows is hitting a team-high .360 with eight homers and a Rays-best 1.148 OPS. The average and OPS would be good enough to lead the AL with enough plate appearances.

The Marlins, meanwhile, are lacking in pop, scoring just 2.3 runs per game in May -- last in the NL. Four of Miami's starters -- catcher Jorge Alfaro, second baseman Starlin Castro, shortstop Miguel Rojas and third baseman/right fielder Brian Anderson -- have combined to smack just one extra-base hit in May.

--Field Level Media

Updated May 13, 2019

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