Mired in a 3-19 swoon — the worst 22-game stretch in franchise history — the Tampa Bay Rays travel to Boston for one last series before the All-Star Break.
The previous series against the Los Angeles Angels exemplified a simple fact: the Rays are not playing good baseball. For example, let’s take a look at Tim Beckham and Steven Souza Jr. — the dynamic duo who struck out six times in the series finale. Of the two Beckham was the most impressive/pathetic, as he saw just 10 pitches in his three at-bats. Then there was Hank Conger and Brad Miller, whose confusion on a double steal led to a run. Blake Snell, the starter in Thursday’s contest, deserved better. Hell, we all deserve better.
For the moment, let’s forget about terms like contention and postseason play. Sure, mathematically speaking, the Rays aren’t yet out of contention. However, they’ll have to play .750 baseball from this point forward if there’s any hope of magically getting back into things. To that point, Tom Jones (Tampa Bay Times) put it best:
We’re in too deep to think that somehow everything will magically turn around in the second half. Nothing that has happened in the first half suggests the Rays are better than what they have shown.
Rather, the organization needs to focus on evaluating the team then changing things to stop the bleeding. In short, figure out what the problems are and make the appropriate changes. Nationals’ franchise player Bryce Harper succinctly put it, Make baseball fun again — something the Rays have been strapped to do this season.
The Rays will kickoff their Make Baseball Fun Again campaign Friday against the Red Sox — a team they’ve played competitively against this season. Kevin Cash will throw Chris Archer (4-11, 4.50 ERA), Matt Moore (5-5, 4.54 ERA), and Jake Odorizzi (3-4, 4.33 ERA) over the next three days. John Farrell will counter with Sean O’Sullivan (2-0, 6.61 ERA), Rick Porcello (10-2, 3.82 ERA), and David Price (8-6, 4.64 ERA).
Rays Series Starters
Archer struck out 10 over 5-2/3 scoreless innings on Sunday in a loss against the Tigers. He allowed just three hits while walking three. The righty left the game with a one-run lead, yet the Rays’ bullpen coughed up five runs over the final two innings. And while Archer wasn’t terribly efficient (115 pitches, starting eight batters with first-pitch strikes), he was able to generate 18 swinging strikes along the way.
Moore allowed two earned runs on six hits and two walks over 6-2/3 innings on Monday. The 27-year-old lefty followed up his seven-inning shutout of Boston with another solid outing. Moore fired 74 of his 113 pitches for strikes (65% K%), and collected 20 (of 30) first-pitch strikes.
Odorizzi was tagged for a season-high seven runs on nine hits, while walking two and fanning four over 5-1/3 innings on Tuesday. The right-hander’s inconsistency has left the team reeling. Odorizzi sported a fine 3.36 ERA through April and May, but has a 4.96 ERA from then on.
Red Sox Series Starters
O’Sullivan is a journeyman hurler who most recently spent time in the Phillies organization. The 28 year-old righty came up big for Boston in his last start, holding the Angels to two runs over five innings a game after the Red Sox lost, 21-2. O’Sullivan relies primarily on an average 92 mph four-seam fastball, and an 83 mph slider which induces a fair number of fly balls. He also boasts a 90 mph sinker that generates a good number of grounders, and a 74 mph curveball with good bite. Key matchup: Evan Longoria (1-2, 2B, RBI, BB)
Porcello allowed four runs (three earned, all in the first inning) in Monday’s 12-5 win over Texas. He gave up 12 hits while fanning three with no walks in six innings. Boston has been put under a lot of pressure recently due to the pitching staff that’s given up a ton of first-inning runs, however, the offense bailed out Porcello, giving him 16 hits and 12 runs of support. The righty settled in, holding Texas scoreless on seven hits over his final five innings to earn the win. Procello held the Rays to one run on five hits over six innings on June 28. Key matchups: Oswaldo Arcia (3-8, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Corey Dickerson (2-7, 2B, HR, RBI), Logan Forsythe (6-17, 3B, BB), Brad Miller (2-8, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB), Logan Morrison (4-13, 2B, RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (6-15)
Price threw eight innings in a loss on Tuesday, allowing three runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out 10. This was actually one of Price’s better outings in recent weeks, and he notched double-digit strikeouts in consecutive games for the first time this season. It was a marked improvement from two starts ago when he was yanked after just 2-1/3 innings. He is 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA in two starts against his former team this year (10 innings pitched). Key matchups: Curt Casali (2B, 3 HR, 5 RBI), Hank Conger (1-3, RBI), Logan Forsythe (4-14, 2B, RBI), Nick Franklin (2-7, 2B, RBI), Brandon Guyer (4-13, 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (2-8, 2B, RBI)
— Kevin Kiermaier (left hand fracture) is scheduled to begin a Minor League rehab stint Monday with Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs.
— Steve Pearce (hamstring) hit in the batting cage and is scheduled to take batting practice on the field Friday.
— True Talk.
My beloved Tampa Bay Rays, let’s #MakeBaseballFunAgain, starting now.
— X-Rays Spex (@XRaysSpex) July 8, 2016
— Hope to see you Friday at Green Bench Brewing Company when we host our next watch party (co-hosted by SubAp and Baseball Forever).