Tampa Bay Rays-Florida Marlins: the New Interstate Rivalry

Brandon LopezContributor IMay 27, 2008

Before this year, the main interleague rivalries were the: Yankees-Mets, White Sox-Cubs, Angels-Dodgers, and even the Indians-Reds. But this year, for the first time, people might actually be interested in the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins series.

This year, the series features two of the most surprising teams this season. The Marlins sit atop of the NL East with a 30-20 record, and have a 2.5 game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves. They feature great young hitters such as Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Jeremy Hermida, Mike Jacobs, and Josh Willingham. The Marlins have hit 71 home runs, which is second in the majors behind division rival Philadelphia.

They are coming off of a three-game sweep of the Arizona D-backs, and handed Brandon Webb his first loss of the season. They then took two of three from the San Francisco Giants and gave Barry Zito his first win of the season.

The schedule leading up to their first game against the Rays isn't an easy one. They play the Phillies six times, the Braves in Atlanta, then a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, who swept them earlier this month.

On the west coast of the state, in St. Petersburg, stays the team with the best record in the majors at this point. The Rays are 31-20, with a home record of 20-8. They currently have a .5 game lead over the Red Sox, who were swept by the Oakland A's. The Rays took two of three from the A's the series before. They are also coming off of a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, which pushes their record against the AL East to 21-12.

The Rays are just as young and exciting as the Marlins, and showcase great hitters and pitchers such as B.J Upton, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Akinori Iwamora, Carlos Pena, Scott Kazmir, and James Shields.

The Rays are second in the majors in steals with 51. They use that speed wisely, and produce a lot of runs. In their last 10 games, they scored 51 runs on 106 hits.

The Rays' schedule leading up to the Marlins isn't that easy either. They play a four-game series at home against the White Sox, then three in Boston, three in Texas, and three in Los Angeles.

The first game of the series is in St. Petersburg, starting on June 13. The second series is in Miami on June 24.

The pitching matchup I would like to see is between Scott Kazmir (4-1, 1.50 ERA, 32 SO) and Scott Olsen (4-2, 3.37 ERA, 29 SO). I predict that the Rays will take four of the six games because of their better pitching. But the Marlins' hitting is scary, so we will see what happens.

So during a season of many firsts, here's another one: The Sunshine Series featuring the first-place Tampa Bay Rays and first-place Florida Marlins.