On the heels of the three-game set against the Athletics, the Tampa Bay Rays continue their homestand on Thursday evening, when they open a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels. The Rays dropped their previous series against the Athletics, while the Angels are coming off a two-game sweep against the Dodgers.
Even though Tampa Bay has been one of the best teams in the league, they have been mediocre at home overall going just 18-16. Compare that to 23-10 on the road. The Rays won the first game of their current homestand, but then dropped the next two games and are now just 1-5 in their last six home games. They look to get back on track during this series, although they will have to be careful since the Angels are coming in with a bit of momentum. Tampa Bay allowed 10 runs in the last two games after relinquishing just 12 total runs total in the previous seven games. The culprit: The Rays’ pitching staff couldn’t keep the ball in the yard — it allowed four game-changing homers in the last two contests. Four context, they gave up the fewest homers in all of baseball (52) prior to Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Angels took down the mighty Dodgers and they continue to hang around contention — entering the series just 3-1/2 games out in the AL Wildcard race. The Dodgers have been far-and-away the best team in the National League this season, while the Angels are two-games under .500. Still, the Dodgers went into Angel Stadium on Monday and Tuesday and they lost both games by identical 5-3 scores. Now the Angels would love to build on the sweep, although it will not be easy seeing that the Angels are just 14-17 on the road this season.
INF Christian Arroyo has been put on the 10-day IL with right forearm tendinitis. Arroyo was initially optioned to Triple-A Durham in order to make room for INF Joey Wendle — who is slated to come off the Injured List after suffering a right wrist fracture — yet was put on the 10-day IL once the injury was revealed. Hunter Wood has been recalled to add an extra arm to the bullpen. Arroyo went 6-for-32 (.188 BA) since he was recalled in late May. Wendle went 7-for-15 in four rehab games with the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Triple-A Durham Bulls.
It would also appear that the Rays will promote RHP Andrew Kittredge, who was placed on the taxi squad Wednesday in Durham. Who might be sent down, or designated for assignment, to clear roster space isn’t yet known?
Los Angeles could get reinforcements during the series. Justin Upton, who has been out all season with a toe injury, is set to return at some point during the Angels’ road trip. However, while injured shortstop Andrelton Simmons is “progressing quickly” after suffering a Grade 3 left ankle sprain, he has yet to start taking live at-bats and will not be activated from the IL anytime over the next four days.
The Rays took six of the seven meetings between these teams a year ago.
Over the next four days, Kevin Cash will sandwich starters Blake Snell (4-5, 3.50) and Charlie Morton (8-0, 2.10 ERA) between bulk guys Ryan Yarbrough (5-2, 5.31 ERA) and Jalen Beeks (5-0, 2.55 ERA) — the latter two listed, but not in the order they will be used, will be utilized in some capacity (starter or otherwise). Brad Ausmus will counter with Tyler Skaggs (4-6, 4.97 ERA), Andrew Heaney (0-1, 5.40 ERA), Jose Suarez (1-1, 4.35 ERA), and Griffin Canning (2-2, 3.65 ERA).
Ryan Yarbrough allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and no walks across 7-2/3 innings in the first game of a doubleheader against Boston on Saturday. He struck out seven. The left-hander was outstanding, winning his third decision in his last four appearances, permitting only an eighth-inning solo homer to Jackie Bradley Jr. and three singles. Yarbrough has a 4.0 K/BB in his last four games (25-2/3 total innings). The 27-year-old still has a lackluster 5.31 ERA, although that’s down from +8, but a solid 1.09 WHIP. Yarbrough is 2-0 with a 5.56 ERA over 11-1/3 career innings against the Angels.
Tyler Skaggs was originally lined up to start Tuesday against the Dodgers but instead had his turn through the rotation pushed back by a game. The left-hander has a 4.97 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and a 2.68 K/BB through 11 starts this season. In his last outing, Skaggs surrendered six runs on six hits and four walks while striking out four through four innings of work — tying for his shortest outing of the season dating back to April 12 against the Cubs. Skaggs relies primarily on a 92 mph four-seam fastball which is bereft of movement and a 76 mph curveball with exceptional bite and glove-side movement, while also mixing in a firm 84 mph changeup with some surprising cutting movement. He is 0-0 with a 9.39 ERA in three career starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Travis d’Arnaud (1-3, HR, RBI), Avisail Garcia (1-3, RBI), Guillermo Heredia (4-8, 2 2B, HR, RBI 3 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2, 3B, 2 RBI, BB), Daniel Robertson (1-3, 2 RBI, 2 BB)
Blake Snell allowed one run on five hits with seven strikeouts and one walk on Sunday. With this win, Snell bounced back from his last outing, where he yielded six runs. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner hasn’t pitched poorly over the last month (he’s posted a 2.88 ERA over his last seven outings), rather he hasn’t been given enough run support to win games regularly. He enters play with a 4-5 record and a 3.50 ERA, with a 1.10 WHIP, a .224 batting average against, and 98 strikeouts across 72 innings this season. Snell is 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA in two career starts against the Angels.
Andrew Heaney was tagged for five runs on six hits and two walks while striking out 10 over 5-2/3 innings. In just his third start since recovering from his elbow issues, Heaney punched out 10 batters for the second straight game. Skaggs retired the first eight batters before giving up a pair of singles and a walk in the fourth inning to knot the score at one apiece. Heaney then allowed a home run to Domingo Santana in the fifth inning and a three-run homer to Tom Murphy in the sixth to give Seattle a four-run lead. The 28-year-old now owns a 5.40 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and a 9.33 K/BB. Heaney relies primarily on a whiffy 93 mph sinker with little movement and a swing-and-miss 80 mph curveball. He is 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Avisail Garcia (3-8, 2B, BB), Guillermo Heredia (3-11, 2B, RBI), Daniel Robertson (3-6, 2B, HR, 4 RBI)
Charlie Morton allowed just two hits (with a combined exit velocity of 121.7 mph) and two walks across seven scoreless innings. He struck out seven batters on an efficient 83 pitches (55 strikes, 66% strike rate). After allowing base runners in the first and third innings, Morton retired his final 14 batters…although he did get a little help from his friends. In the fifth inning, Tommy Pham leaped at the wall in left to rob Chapman of an extra-base hit. In two June starts, Morton has tossed 14 scoreless frames with a 7.5 K/BB. His season ERA is down to a sparkling 2.10, while his FIP sits at 2.66 across 81-1/3 frames.
Jose Suarez gave up two runs on four hits and two walks over 4-2/3 innings on Sunday against the Mariners. He struck out six. Suarez missed bats — 14 of 87 pitches were swinging strikes (16% SwStr) — but his command was spotty which contributed to the decision to pull the rookie early from the contest. The 21-year-old has acquitted himself reasonably well through his first two big-league outings, posting a 4.35 ERA/5.19 FIP across 10-1/3 innings with a 1.36 WHIP. He relies primarily on a whiffy 92 mph four-seam fastball with little arm-side movement and an 82 mph swing-and-miss changeup with a little arm-side movement and some natural sink, while also mixing in a whiffy 76 mph curveball with glove-side movement.
Jalen Beeks allowed one run (unearned) on two hits and a walk across four innings on Tuesday. He struck out two on 50 pitches (32 strikes 64% strike rate). Jurickson Profar singled to center to lead off the fifth inning, then moved into second when Mike Zunino allowed a passed ball. The ever-aggressive Profar came around to score on Chad Pinder’s single to center, tagging Beeks for the only damage he would relinquish. In three outings extending back to May 31, Beeks has allowed just two earned runs across 11-2/3 innings with a 4.00 K/BB. His season ERA is down to an impressive 2.55, while his FIP sits at 2.86 across 53 innings of work.
Griffin Canning gave up three earned runs on five hits while striking out five and walking across six innings in his last start. Canning tossed a quality start for the third time in his last five outings although he had to settle for a no-decision after exiting with a 3-1 deficit. After a rough start to the season, the rookie has been impressive sporting a solid 3.65 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and a 4.7 K/BB across 44-1/3 innings. He relies primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball and a hard 89 mph worm-killer slider with 12-6 movement, while also mixing in an 82 mph curveball with little depth, and an 89 mph changeup with a lot of backspin.