Facing Felix just the start of tough stretch for Rays

Facing Felix just the start of tough stretch for Rays

SEATTLE -- Talk about running the gauntlet. Rays hitters will be doing just that beginning Wednesday afternoon when they face 2010 Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez.

And it won't get any easier when they reach Anaheim on Thursday, as they will face Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Zack Greinke.

"Couple of Cy Youngs in there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "A couple of potential Cy Youngs in there, but they have to say the same thing about our guys."

Each of the pitchers the Rays will face has been an All-Star, Hernandez and Greinke have won Cy Young Awards and Weaver threw a no-hitter this year.

"Those are some good pitchers in a row," Jeff Keppinger said. "But you have to face good pitchers throughout the year. It just so happens that we happen to get all of them in a bunch. We have to go out there and swing the bats. Swing at strikes."

While players are used to seeing good pitchers, Keppinger allowed that players aren't immune from looking at the list of coming starters they will face and seeing a difficult task ahead.

"But there's nothing you can do about it," Keppinger said. "We just have to go out there and compete. They have to face our pitching, too."

Sam Fuld noted that because the Rays play in the American League East, they see a lot of tough pitchers.

"You see a lot of quality arms all the time," Fuld said. "Yeah, we have five games in a row where we're facing five really quality guys. But we're pretty well equipped to take that on.

"We see quality arms a lot. This happens to be a little more daunting than normal. But gosh, we've got a lot of momentum on our side. We're swinging the bats better at a good time."

The Rays will be countering the fab five they'll be facing with a group of their own, beginning with Jeremy Hellickson on Wednesday, followed by David Price, James Shields, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore.

"That's the beauty of our pitching staff," Fuld said. "No matter who we're facing offensively, we feel like -- and it's not necessarily the best approach to take -- but we know we can get away with scoring two or three runs and have a chance to win. We don't ever want to be resigned to that, but it certainly helps when we go up against these quality arms."

Keppinger added: "Every time we come into a place, the other team can't be too happy facing our staff. Our staff's good, our bullpen's pretty lights out too. There isn't an easy matchup in there."

Maddon has never been the voice of panic about coming attractions that the Rays must deal with, and predictably, he didn't sound the panic alarm about the pitchers the Rays will have to face in the coming five days.

"We've had a history of beating good pitchers in close games because we've pitched well," Maddon said. "And that's the way I look at it."