Josh Fleming made his big league debut on Sunday, while the Tampa Bay Rays cobbled together a middle innings rally en route to a 5-4 win over Toronto. Tampa Bay has taken two of three games against the Blue Jays in the series with one left to play, and have won 13 of their last 15 in spite of an ever-growing list of injured hurlers.
The Rays enter the season finale against the Blue Jays on Monday a season-high nine games over .500 and with a 99.5% chance of making the playoffs according to FanGraphs, with 31 games left to play.
Josh Fleming got the start and allowed two runs on four hits and two walks across five solid innings. He struck out three on 72 pitches (41 strikes, 57% strike rate, 22% SwStr%). The southpaw allowed a solo homer to Teoscar Hernandez in the second inning, and an RBI single to Travis Shaw in the fourth. Yet he was also able to work around a double in the fifth, and his day ended with the Tampa Bay trailing by a pair. Fortunately for Fleming, the Rays plated three runs in the bottom of the frame to leave him in line to pick up his first career win. With Yonny Chirinos on the shelf, Fleming showed that he is perfectly capable of pitching in the big leagues.
Down by two, Anthony Kay — who entered the game for injured starter Trent Thornton — was chased after he allowed a single to Joey Wendle and a walk to Willy Adames. Ryan Borucki took over and got Kevin Kiermaier to fly out to center, yet José Martínez looped a full-count single to right, plating Wendle and allowing Adames to go from first to third. Still mired in an ugly slump, Austin Meadows hit a sac-fly to right, tying the game, and Martínez moved up to second on the throw home. Brandon Lowe capped the inning with an RBI single to center, giving Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.
Pete (Un)Fairbanks took over for Fleming in the sixth. And while Hernandez walked and swiped second, Fairbanks got the next two batters before he appeared to strike out Danny Jansen on a check swing. The “ball” was upheld, much to the chagrin of Kevin Cash. The Rays skipper was inevitably ejected over the call after Jansen walked. Fairbanks bounced back though, striking out pinch-hitter Rowdy Tellez to end the threat.
Then in the seventh, Aaron Loup allowed a soft one-out full-count double to left before he got Randall Grichuk to fly out to right. With the right-handed bat of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. set to step into the box, Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro called on Diego Castillo, who got the slugger to ground out to short to end the frame.
Then in the bottom of the inning, Kiermaier beat out a grounder to third against Jacob Waguespack for an infield hit, then stole second base with one out. The monkey was firmly fixed to Meadows’ back, although he worked a nice eight-pitch at-bat before he broke through and lined an RBI single to right, making it 4-2. Lowe walked against Waguespack before Charlie Montoyo called on Sam Gaviglio … who walked Yandy Díaz — the 10th consecutive plate appearance in which Díaz has reached. Finally, Ji-Man Choi capped the scoring with a sac-fly to deep right-center, putting the Rays up by three, 5-2.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, Castillo ran into trouble in the eighth inning, making the extra runs critically important. The Blue Jays rallied for two runs on Lourdes Gurriel Junior’s homer to left, necessitating a call to the ‘pen. John Curtiss took over and got the last five outs of the game allowing him to earn his first big league save. Curtiss became the eighth different Ray to get a save this season.
The New What Next
The Rays wrap up the season series against Toronto on Monday afternoon at the Trop. Blake Snell (2-0, 3.00 ERA) will get the start, pitching opposite of Tanner Roark (2-1, 4.76 ERA).
Blake Snell allowed three runs on four hits (two home runs) and two walks over five innings against the Yankees on Tuesday. He struck out three. Snell has yet to last longer than five innings in a start this season, although his last two outings have resembled vintage Snell, and he’s won both of them. He threw 46 pitches (26 strikes, 57% strike rate) in three scoreless frames against the Blue Jays on July 26. The southpaw has been good in his career against Toronto, going 4-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 12 starts (58-1/3 IP).
Tanner Roark gave up two runs (one earned) on nine hits with five strikeouts and one walk over five innings against the Orioles. The right-hander certainly wasn’t at his best Wednesday given that he allowed 10 baserunners, although he benefited from Baltimore running into two outs at home plate. Roark has a 4.76 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, and a 15:10 K:BB across 17 innings (four starts) this season. Roark gave up three runs on four hits (including one homer) and four walks across four innings of work against the Rays on August 14. Still, he is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts (17 IP) against the Rays. Key Matchups: José Martínez (2-6), Joey Wendle (2-5)
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.
Rays 8/24/20 Starting Lineup
- Meadows LF
- Lowe RF
- Diaz 3B
- Choi 1B
- Tsutsugo DH
- Wendle 2B
- Adames SS
- Kiermaier CF
- Zunino C
— The pitching injuries continue to mount. Nick Anderson became the ninth pitcher to go on the IL with right forearm inflammation retroactive to August 20. The Rays recalled Edgar Garcia from Port Charlotte after being acquired earlier in the week from Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, Both Cash and Anderson are optimistic this will be a short stint on the IL, with the right-hander quoted as saying, he is “99.9% sure” his forearm inflammation issue was nothing serious. Anderson had an MRI Saturday and everything looked good, and the plan is to take a couple more days off and resume throwing then. He has not allowed a run so far this season.
Garcia was designated for assignment late last week. The 23-year-old right-hander made his MLB debut last season, tossing 39 innings out of the Phillies bullpen and posting 5.77 ERA/6.57 FIP/1.73 K:BB/10.4 K:9. Keeping the ball in the park and giving away free passes were Garcia’s biggest issues in 2019, as he gave up 11 long balls and walked 26.
To his credit, Garcia has posted some solid numbers in the minor leagues — a 3.43 ERA/3.27 K:BB rate/9.3 K:9 over 301-1/3 innings in Philadelphia’s farm system.
Kevin Cash thinks there could be some potential for Garcia in the bullpen.
I really don’t know a ton about him. I know he’s a young right-hander that our guys like and does some interesting stuff. He has shown the ability to strike some people out, can pitch with his slider, but we’re looking forward to getting him to Port Charlotte and check him out and see how he’s doing. I know he’s had four or five days of downtime so we have to get him ramped up again.— Kevin Cash
Garcia relies primarily on a 92 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in a whiffy 84 mph 12-6 slider which he throws 49% of the time, and a firm 86 mph changeup with a lot of backspin.
As Juan Toribio (MLB.com) writes, the slider is his clear putaway pitch, although it can be hittable at times.
(Garcia) recorded 31 of his 45 strikeouts on the pitch. The 23-year-old held opposing hitters to a .222 average against the slider. He did, however, allow four home runs on the pitch.
While the slider is García’s best pitch, he will have to continue to improve his fastball command. García threw his four-seamer 43 percent of the time last season — averaging 93.8 mph — and opposing hitters finished with a .327 average and an average exit velocity of 90.8 mph.— Juan Toribio