Rays 7/3/14 Starting Lineup
Rays 7/3/14 Starting Lineup
The Tampa Bay Rays’ 11-game road gauntlet has gone well so far, and they’ll attempt to continue their success this weekend, when they head to Detroit for a four game wrap around series against the Tigers. For the Rays, they are currently 6-1 on the road, coming off a huge three-game sweep of the New York Yankees. Tampa Bay has found a way to remain relevant, thanks in large part to a productive offense that has averaged just under five runs per game (over the last 14-days).
At 12-6 since June 15th, Tampa Bay has improved its overall win/loss record to 38-49 for a .437 WP — or, 40-47 for a .460 Pythagorean Expectation if you prefer. Despite the sub .500 win/loss record, when you factor in the Rays’ pitching and defense — especially over the last three weeks — one thing becomes glaringly obvious: They should be a formidable opponent for the Detroit Tigers.
In kind, the Tigers have always been a formidable opponent for Tampa Bay, and it would be frankly stupid to assume that they won’t pose a hurdle for the Rays over the next four days. Much like the Rays, the Tigers have been hot over a 10-game span; going 8-2, while averaging five runs per game. And in those 10 games, the pitching staff has held opponents to three runs or fewer five times, including two shutouts by Rick Porcello, who the Rays will face Sunday.
Neil Solandz said it best in the post-game show following the series finale Wednesday; if the Rays can split the series with the Tigers, they’ll return Monday with an impressive 8-3 road-trip under their belts. In the end, they’ll need to win between 66%-75% of their upcoming games if they have any hope of remaining relevant, and an 8-3 road-trip completely fits those parameters.
Max Scherzer: Scherzer has always been tough on the Rays, and there’s no reason to expect anything different out of the Tigers’ 29 year-old RHP. Then again, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner has had a rough go of things of late, surrendering a career high-tying 10 runs over four-plus innings in an 11-4 defeat to Kansas City on June 17. For Scherzer, it was the fifth time in six starts he allowed at least four runs — something he had done just four times in his previous 33 games. However, he boasts a 2.70 ERA during during a three-start winning streak against the Rays, striking out 25 and walking five over 20 innings while allowing just 12 hits. In the Rays favor, opposing hitters have been able to make more contact on pitches off the fastball/curve ball/slider/changeup throwing pitcher. For a team that likes to force pitchers over the plate, this may offer a glimmer of hope.
Drew Smyly: Per Rotowire, “Smyly, who gave up four runs over 2.1 innings in Sunday’s start against Houston, is dealing with an upper respiratory infection, MLive’s James Schmehl reports.” The Rays have had a measured amount of success against Smyly in his last two starts, tagging the lefty for four runs on eight hits, including a homer in 11 innings of work — measured being the operative word. Those 11 innings have come over two starts in which the Rays slashed a combined .174 BA/.269 OBP/.391 SLG/.661 OPS line. If anything holds true for Smyly: 1. He is try tough on lefties, 2. He is prone to giving up home runs (his 1.19 HR/9 speaks to that), 3. His +4 FIP is largely predicated on the 10 homers he’s given up, and 4. Smyly strands a lot of runners on base. Key matchups: Evan Longoria (1-1, 2B, BB), Jose Molina (1-2, 2B, RBI).
Anibal Sanchez: The Rays have had success against Sanchez over the last few years, extending back to when he was a Marlin. Despite that, he’s been good this season. The Tigers are on a four game winning streak when Sanchez is on the bump, and Sanchez ceded all of 12 earned runs in his six June starts. Key matchups: Matt Joyce (4-12, 2B, 2 3B, HR, 3 RBI), James Loney (4-10, 3B), Jose Molina (2-4, HR, 2 RBI).
Rick Porcello: And your marque pitching matchup of the series, Rick Porcello vs. David Price. Porcello is on a run of three consecutive shutout starts. Overall, Porcello has given up two earned runs or fewer 10 times this season. Porcello throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball — both of which can reach the mid-90s (although the four-seamer is a bit faster). His heavy two-seamer/sinker has plenty of life down in the zone and induces ground balls (his 47.4 GB% speaks to that). Key matchups: Desmond Jennings (3-10, RBI), James Loney (2-7, 2B, RBI, BB).
Here we go. The second leg of the Rays 11-game road gauntlet commences in the Bronx, Monday, where Tampa Bay will take on the Evil Empire in a three-game set. The Rays are riding a massive wave of momentum following their big series victory against the Orioles, not to mention a pretty damn good second half of June — since June 15th, Tampa Bay has gone 9-6, outscoring their opponents 67-53 in that span, while averaging 4.46 runs per game. Tampa Bay is finally showing what they should have looked like right out the gate, while the Yankees are playing sluggishly of late — proving that $400 MM in offseason acquisitions may not necessarily equal a great team.
Consider this for a moment. Masahiro Tanaka (who the Rays won’t be facing in this series) is 11-3. The Yankees are 41-39 on the season, with a .476 Pythagorean Expectation. Of those $400 MM worth of offseason acquisitions, only one, Tanaka, has made them an above average team.
What’s more, the Yankees are 41-39 (.476 PE, or 37-43) on the season, while the Rays are 35-49 (.473 PE, or 38-46). PE, or Pythagorean Expectation, is an estimation of how many games a baseball team “should” have won based on the number of runs they scored and allowed. That is, the Yankees have been incredibly lucky/advantageous this season, whereas the Rays have not.
Since there really hasn’t been a startling difference in offensive production between the Rays and Yankees — especially over the last 14 days — the one thing that’s pushed them over has been Tanaka. When he’s not on the mound, the Yankees are indeed a pretty beatable team.
The Yankees dropped the final two games against the Boston Red Sox over the weekend and are losers of six of their last eight contests. New York pitching surrendered 12 hits in Sunday’s finale, while the staff has allowed an average of 6.5 runs in the last six losses, needing to burn through five relievers on Sunday, including two innings from top setup man Dellin Betances.
David Phelps: Phelps was rocked for six runs on eight hits in five innings in Toronto on Tuesday. Prior to that, he yielded a total of two earned runs over 13-2/3 innings in his previous two outings. As in previous seasons, Phelps has racked up strikeouts as well as walks, and doesn’t have an apparent second skill — like an ability to coax ground ball outs. That could bode well for Tampa Bay. The Rays last faced the 27 year-old RHP on June 21, 2013, when he surrendered two runs in 5-2/3 innings to earn a win. Key matchups: Yunel Escobar (4-10, BB), James Loney (3-10, 2B, RBI), Jose Molina (1-3), Sean Rodriguez (1-4, RBI), Ben Zobrist (5-12, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB).
Hiroki Kuroda:The Rays have been good against Kuroda over in his last 29-1/3 innings of work, tagging the 39 year-old RHP for 26 runs (24 earned) on 34 hits, including an abbreviated 5-2/3 inning outing in April. Kuroda was okay in his last start Wednesday, allowing three runs on eight hits with four strikeouts, in a 6-1/3 inning start against the Blue Jays. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (1-4, BB), Desmond Jennings (3-11, RBI, BB), Matt Joyce (6-16, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Evan Longoria (7-17, 2B, HR, 5 RBI), Ben Zobrist (5-15, 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB).
Vidal Nuno: Let’s review Nuno’s two starts against the Rays this season. In his first outing, back in April, Nuno blanked Tampa Bay over five innings, giving up only three hits. But the Rays came back to hammer the 26 year-old lefty for four runs on five hits, including a Desmond Jennings two-run shot, in a 10-5 routing of the Yankees. Overall, Nuno has given up an average of 4-3/4 runs in half of his 16 starts, with six of those eight starts culminating in a loss. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (1-3, 2B, RBI), Desmond Jennings (2-6, 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (2-7, 2B, 3B), Jose Molina (1-4, 2B).
The hangover — both literal and figurative. Last night’s losing venture led to drinking… Not a copious amount of alcohol, but enough to make me regret being awake and typing a game recap. I see a nap in my future. The skinny: The BABIP luck dragons took a large chunk out of Alex Cobb’s heels, Ryan Hanigan had a hard time throwing out everyone, and the Rays offense went back into hibernation. The Rays ended the night having been thrashed by the Pirates, 8-1.
Much like his start back on June seventh, Alex Cobb was hit hard and early, this time for six runs on six hits. The BABIP luck dragons weren’t nipping at his heels, they were full on taking chunks out of the lower portions of his legs. And to add insult to injury, the Pirates ran all over him to the tune of four stolen bases. To be fair, Cobb has looked great at times this year, yet last night was not one of those occasions. Cobb has now given up at least six runs in an outing since he returned from injury on May 22nd, with only two wins to show for his efforts. Granted he hasn’t had much offensive support — last night being no different. But the lack of offensive support certainly doesn’t explain his 5.34 ERA and 4.10 FIP in the month of June.
Also factoring into the loss were unofficial fielding gaffes. By my count, there were three plays that could have been made (and maybe would have been made last season) by Yunel Escobar, but weren’t. It could be argued that his defensive placement, closer to third, was the reason those grounders squeaked through his side of the infield. However, I’d argue his range, for whatever reason, isn’t what it once was. A quick look at his fielding stats show that his fielding numbers are down across the board. His UZR dropped from 10.7 in 2013 to -9.3, his RZR dropped over 100 points from .782 to .663, and his fielding percentage on routine plays dropped from 99.3% to 96.1%. His fielding, or lack thereof, has not gone unnoticed:
Escobar is dogging it. He has been for quite some time. It’s time someone said it. I’m putting my name on it #Rays
— Tom Krasniqi (@TKras) June 24, 2014
Drew Laing of DRaysBay wrote,
Last year, Escobar was the “sparkplug” for the Rays – in the field and in the dugout. This year? Not even close. If he’s not fielding, he doesn’t bring much value to the team.
I whole heartedly agree. The Rays were able to turn their 37th double play of the season. That counts for something, right?
On the other end of things, five of the Rays six hits came between the first and fourth innings. That is, Tampa Bay went five innings without a hit. Meanwhile, they only struck out twice. Sure, the Rays made contact with the ball. Yet the majority of their contact was weak. That they grounded into three inning ending double-plays certainly didn’t help.
The New What Next
Sometimes it feels like the Rays lose to pitchers they should beat, and handle those they should be buried by. Hopefully that trend holds up tonight. After all, Tampa Bay should have beaten Voloquez badly, while Jeff Locke — by all accounts — promises to be a tough customer. Locke (0-1, 3.76 ERA) may be the most fearsome starter the Rays will face in this series. Despite getting pounded for six runs in his first start back at the beginning of May, the 26 year-old lefty has cleaned up his act — relinquishing only five runs in his last 21 innings of work. Locke is wont to attack hitters (not nibbling at the edges) with his fastball, utilizing his upper 70′s change-up as his put away pitch. For the Rays, Chris Archer will try to put together another solid outing. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview, and I’ll post the starting lineup when it becomes available.
Rays 6/24/14 Starting Lineup
So to get to 50-50 as Maddon wanted, #Rays just have to go 19-3.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 24, 2014
Per a piece on 620wdae.com, Brian “BA” Anderson was quoted Monday, that he would be shocked if David Price would be traded this year.
“I would be shocked if they traded David (Price) this year,” said BA. “I’m not saying they won’t, but if they did that would be one of those days like no way that just happened is how I would feel about it.”
This may give credence to the thought that Jeremy Hellickson, who is still in the midst of a rehab stint with Triple-A Durham, may not be back with the Rays until after the July trade deadline.
The Rays, too, may not be ready to wave the white flag just yet. Rays director of communications Dave Haller tweeted earlier,
Blue Jays still leading AL East at 42-35 (.545). In any of past 4 years on this date, this record would’ve been good for FOURTH place.
— Dave Haller (@HallerDave) June 23, 2014
An implication that Tampa Bay, despite being under .500 and 11 games back in the AL Wildcard race, believe they have a chance to remain relevant — assuming they can continue doing what they have over the last 11 games. Moving on.
Rays skipper Joe Maddon invited 17-year-old knuckleball pitcher Chelsea Baker to pitch to Evan Longoria and Rays hitters this afternoon. Chelsea pitched to a few hitters, including Evan Longoria, Jose Molina, and David Price, grazing Longo with a pitch — yelling, “Sorry!” from behind the L-screen — and getting Price swinging. Relevant tweets:
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 23, 2014
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 23, 2014
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 23, 2014
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 23, 2014