The Rays head to Houston for a four game set against the Astros, on the heels of two big series wins at the Trop against the Blue Jays and Tigers. The Astros have the second worst record in baseball — they’re just a mere win better than the Marlins. And similar to the Marlins, the Astros tend to be a scrappy team. Yes, the numbers speak for themselves. But I’d imagine that the Rays won’t approach the series lightly.
Houston is coming off a three game sweep at the hands of the Angels, in a series where the Astros could only cull together a total of five runs. Though the Rays don’t stand to gain anything in the AL East by winning these games, a series win would put a nice buffer in the wins and losses columns. In short, these are the kinds of games the Rays should be winning. The biggest news is the return of David Price Tuesday.
Dallas Keuchel: Keuchel is a soft-tossing, groundball-inducing, control lefty with a deep assortment of pitches (four-seam fastball, sinker, cutter, changeup, slider, curve). Keuchel impressively gave up only nine earned runs in the month of June, spread out over 27 innings.
Erik Bedard: Per Rotowire, “Bedard picked up his third win of the season in Wednesday’s win over the Cardinals. He went six innings and gave up three runs on seven hits while striking out six.” The Rays have beat up Bedard over the last few years, tagging him for nine earned runs on 18 hits in 14-1/3 innings of work. He’s got decent movement on his fastball, though his velocity is gone (averaging 89 mph). Bedard has excellent secondary stuff, however his command and control issues make him fairly hittable. Key match-ups: Desmond Jennings (2-4, HR, RBI, BB), Ryan Roberts (1-2, RBI), Luke Scott (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB), Ben Zobrist (5-16, RBI).
Bud Norris: Per Rotowire, “Norris was exceptional Friday night, allowing just one run (unearned) on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts over seven innings, but was left with a no-decision in Houston’s 4-2 loss to the Angels.” Norris has average command over his fastball and slider, though he does struggle with leaving the fastball up in the zone too often. He also tends to hang the slider on occasion. Because of his struggles with keeping the ball down in the zone and command, Norris does give up his fair share home runs.
Jordan Lyles: Per Rotowire, “Lyles allowed four runs over four innings and was the losing pitcher Saturday against the Angels.” Like Keuchel, Lyles is a ground-ball inducing pitch to contact type of pitcher. He doesn’t have the pitch repertoire of his teammate however, tending to lean primarily on in his fastball, curveball, and slider.
- The most dangerous bat in the Astros lineup is Chris Carter, who’s striking out 36.5% of the time. Former Ray Carlos Pena has reduced his strikeout rate to 26%, though his once powerful bat has waned, making him an average hitter at best.
- The biggest culprits for the Astros lack of success are a lack of offense and plenty of shoddy defense.
- A Ray of good news, Evan Longoria might be available in this series. “He actually felt pretty good (Sunday),” Maddon said. “It’s kind of encouraging. A lot of the pain was different. It wasn’t nearly as severe, so we’ll see. We might be able to use him in Houston like we had thought.”
- James Loney will look to extend his hitting streak to 12 Monday (and if I may be a bit presumptuous 13, 14, and 15 thereafter).
- The Rays have signed RHP Ramon S. Ramirez and OF Evan Frey, and both have been assigned to AAA Durham. In turn, they’ve released RHP Will Inman to make room.