El Rayo. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After taking three of four from the Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays play host to the LA Dodgers in a three-game home set starting Friday. The Dodgers are coming off a series win against Atlanta, having won two of three.

The Rays enter play 37-15, a season high tying 22 games above .500, and three games up on the second-place Orioles in the division. The Dodgers enter 31-20 on the season, and 1.5 games up on the second-place Diamondbacks in the NL West.

Despite a shellacking on Tuesday, Tampa Bay has played well over the past week, having won five of the last seven games. The Rays are averaging 5.96 runs per game, which is down but still very good, while their .271 batting average leads the league. They also maintain a league-leading .346 OBP and .501 SLG.

Over the past week, the Rays have been BABIP’d, putting up a .268 batting average on balls in play. However, they still maintain a healthy 120 wRC+ and a 3.6 wRAA across the same stretch.

Los Angeles had its two-game winning streak snapped by Atlanta in the series finale Thursday. The Dodgers are averaging 5.47 runs per game, however, their .236 batting average is 23rd in the league. They also own a middling .326 OBP and a .450 SLG.

Over the last week, the Dodgers have put up a .271 BA/.339 OBP/.467 SLG/.806 OPS line, thanks in part to a lucky .325 BABIP. Either way, across that stretch, the Dodgers have struck out more than the Rays (23.1% vs 20.5%) and walked fewer times (8.3% vs 10.0%).

Tampa Bay’s pitching has been good, with the team giving up 3.78 runs per game. Opponents have a .228 batting average against the Rays, which is second in the league, while their 3.70 ERA (2.88 ERA and 3.36 FIP for the starters, 4.56 ERA and 4.88 FIP for the relievers) is fifth. Their ERA is belied by a 4.08 FIP though due to a shaky relief corps of late. Nevertheless, their 1.20 WHIP is fourth in the league.

Los Angeles’ pitching has been good, although it’s been hit with injuries. The Dodgers are surrendering 4.37 runs per game, which the Rays will clearly try to take advantage of. Their 4.25 ERA and 4.12 FIP are 17th in the league (4.07 ERA and 4.22 FIP for the starters, 4.50 ERA and 3.99 FIP for the relievers), while their 1.23 WHIP is seventh.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Cooper Criswell (0-1, 7.94 ERA, 6.01 FIP) behind an opener, Tyler Glasnow (AAA, 0-0, 0.68 ERA, 2.56 FIP), and Taj Bradley (3-1, 4.44 ERA, 3.24 FIP). Dave Roberts will counter with Noah Syndergaard (1-3, 5.88 ERA, 4.44 FIP), Clayton Kershaw (6-4, 2.98 ERA, 3.29 FIP), and Gavin Stone (0-0, 10.13 ERA, 7.03 FIP).

Cooper Criswell allowed five runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out three over 4.2 innings on Sunday against the Brewers. Criswell made his first big-league appearance since April 21, going 4.2 innings in relief of Jalen Beeks, who served as an opener for Tampa Bay. Criswell served up a two-run homer to Rowdy Tellez in the fourth inning, and another to William Contreras in the fifth on the way to a season-high five runs allowed. All told he maintains a 7.94 ERA and a 6.01 FIP, with a 4.33 K/BB, and a 1.59 WHIP across 11.1 innings.

Noah Syndergaard allowed three runs on four hits and one walk while striking out four batters over five innings against St. Louis on Saturday. Syndergaard has been dealing with a cut on his index finger on his pitching hand, so there was some uncertainty about how he’d hold up after lasting just four innings in his previous turn. The right-hander gave Los Angeles moderate length Saturday, tossing 80 pitches (53 strikes, 66% strike rate) over five frames. He gave up three runs over the first two frames but finished strong, retiring the final seven batters he faced. Syndergaard has struggled to a 5.88 ERA and a 4.44 FIP through nine starts this season (41.1 IP), with a 5.00 K/BB, and a 1.33 WHIP. He relies primarily on a 92 mph sinker, a firm 87 mph changeup with some slight arm-side fade and some natural sink, and a 90 mph cutter that has some natural sink, while also mixing in a whiffy 93 mph fourseam fastball, and a 78 mph curveball that has slight glove-side movement. Syndergaard is 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in two career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (1-2, HR, RBI), Yandy Díaz (1-3), Wander Franco (2-3, 2B), Manuel Margot (2-5, 2 BB), Francisco Mejía (1-3)

Tyler Glasnow (oblique) covered six innings and struck out six while allowing an earned run on two hits and two walks Sunday in his final rehab start for Triple-A Durham. Making the fourth start of his rehab assignment, Glasnow built up to 67 pitches and once again looked sharp during his time on the mound. In those four outings with Durham, Glasnow maintained a 0.68 ERA and a 2.56 FIP, with a 0.98 WHIP, and a 3.99 K/BB.

Clayton Kershaw started Sunday against the Cardinals and allowed four runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six across 3.2 innings. Assuming he rejoins the team when expected, his next start lines up for next weekend in Tampa Bay. This came after he covered a season-low four innings against the Twins in which he allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out seven in four innings. All told, the future hall of famer maintains a 2.98 ERA and a 3.29 FIP on the season, with a 4.93 K/BB, and a 1.10 WHIP across 57.1 innings. He relies primarily on a hard 87 mph slider that has some short glove-side cut, and a 91 mph fourseam fastball, while also mixing in a 74 mph 12-6 Cooperstown curveball that has exceptional bite. Kershaw is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in two career starts against the Rays.

Taj Bradley allowed four runs on nine hits over 4.0 innings against the Blue Jays. He struck out seven. It certainly could’ve been worse for Bradley given that he allowed nine hits, yet he managed to hold Toronto to four runs thanks to his seven punchouts. Bradley had a mechanical flaw, which BA noted on the broadcast Tuesday, and he had difficulty locating his cutter. It will be interesting to see what adjustments he may have made in his between-start bullpen session. Bradley’s 4.44 ERA is underwhelming, although his 3.24 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, and impressive 8.5 K/BB give reasons for optimism.

Gavin Stone worked four innings while allowing five earned runs on five hits and five walks against Atlanta on Monday. His first two big-league starts have resulted in less than inspiring outcomes, with a hurler maintaining a 10.13 ERA and a 7.03 FIP, with a 0.29 K/BB, and a 2.50 WHIP across 8.00 frames. He relies primarily on a 94 mph fourseam fastball that has some natural sinking action, and a whiffy 85 mph changeup, while also mixing in an 86 mph slider that has two-plane movement.

The Music That Influenced This Preview

One of the all-time greatest power-pop/punk albums, Guitar Romantic by the Exploding Hearts, just got the remaster and re-release treatment by Third-Man Records, and we are all better for it! The full album drop should come later today. Treat yo’self if you’ve never heard them.