Who doesn’t love an orange roof? (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

The Tampa Bay Rays returned to the win column on Friday, defeating the Minnesota Twins, 5-3, behind a solid outing by Michael Wacha and some timely hitting.

At 85-50 on the season, the Rays enter play Saturday 35-games above .500, and 6.5 games up on the Yankees in the division.

Michael Wacha allowed two runs on three hits, including two solo home runs, across six innings on Friday against Minnesota. He struck out seven and threw 86 efficient pitches (64 strikes, 74% strike rate). Aside from the pair of homers, Wacha cruised through the Twins’ lineup, while the Rays managed to push five runs across in the first three frames. He also didn’t hurt himself by allowing any free passes.

Wacha has been a much different pitcher since his previous start against the Twins. Last night he completely scrapped his cutter and leaned heavily on changeups and curveballs to complement his mid-90’s four-seam fastball.

Wacha has allowed just three runs through 10.1 innings (2.61 ERA) in his last two appearances after registering a 6.93 ERA in his previous 11. On the season, Wacha carries a 5.54 ERA and a 4.79 FIP, with an 8.76 K/9, and a 1.43 WHIP across 100.2 innings.

Meanwhile, after falling behind by a run early, the Rays moved in front for good in the second inning against Randy Dobnak.

Austin Meadows sliced a double to left then moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. Randy Arozarena hit a broken-bat grounder toward first, yet Miguel Sano elected to come home rather than taking the sure out as Meadows beat the throw to tie the game at one.

Kevin Kiermaier followed by lining the very next pitch into the right-center gap for an RBI triple, giving Tampa Bay a go-ahead lead they would never relinquish.

Yandy Díaz capped the second-inning rally by delivering an RBI groundout to short for a two-run advantage.

Then, an inning later, Joey Wendle ahead of Nelson Cruz, who roped an RBI double to right-center, putting Tampa Bay up by three.

Meadows followed with an RBI single to right-center for a four-run lead. The mustachioed Dobnak, however, retired 15 batters in a row, including nine groundball outs, to get through seven frames.

Even so, the Rays also were stingy on the mound. Pete Fairbanks bounced back by working a scoreless seventh on 20 pitches (6 whiffs, 35% SwStr%) with two strikeouts. His velocity was also back up, with his fastball touching 97 – 98 mph eight times.

David Robertson followed Fairbanks an inning later, allowing a run on a two-out bloop double that Meadows overran. He also found himself in a 10-pitch battle with Josh Donaldson which resulted in an inning-ending grounder to second.

Finally, Andrew Kittredge notched his sixth save of the season by working around a two-out error for a scoreless ninth.

The Rays now are 14-3 over the last 17 games and 32-13 since the All-Star Break — tying the AL East’s top team for the best mark in baseball with those jagoffs from the Bronx. They are also 37-13 at the Trop over the past 50 games.

The New What Next

Chris Archer (0-1, 4.35 ERA) will make his third start since coming off the Injured List, pitching opposite of left-hander Andrew Albers (1-0, 0.96 ERA).

Chris Archer allowed two earned runs on four hits and a walk while striking out six over four innings on Sunday against Baltimore. The right-hander was effective overall across 59 pitches (41 strikes, 69% strike rate), notching first-pitch strikes on 10 of the 17 batters he faced. The right-hander also recorded an impressive 14 swinging strikes (24% SwStr%). Archer displayed improved velocity as the game progressed, going from 88 mph on the first fastball he threw to 95.2 mph on a fourth-inning offering to Jahmai Jones. On the season, Archer maintains a 4.35 ERA and a 2.19 FIP, with a 5.33 K/BB and a 1.45 WHIP through 10.1 innings on the season.

Andrew Albers allowed three hits and a walk over 5.1 shutout innings Friday against the Brewers while striking out two. Making his first big-league start since 2017, Albers cruised through Milwaukee’s lineup without much resistance. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning but didn’t see much of a threat at any other point. He sports a 0.96 ERA, but a 4.23 FIP and a .154 BABIP — speaking to an incredible amount of good luck Albers was the recipient of — with a 3.0 K/BB through 9.1 innings since he was recalled from Triple-A St. Paul. Albers relies primarily on an 89 mph sinker, an 89 mph four-seam fastball, and a 78 mph slider, while also mixing in a 79mph circle changeup and a 69 mph curveball.

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.

Rays 9/4/21 Starting Lineup

  1. Arozarena LF
  2. Franco SS
  3. Cruz DH
  4. Díaz 3B
  5. Luplow 1B
  6. B. Lowe 2B
  7. Margot RF
  8. Zunino C
  9. Kiermaier CF
  10. Archer RHP

Noteworthiness

— The Rays say SS Wander Franco, who left Thursday’s contest with a severe headache, is doing much better. All tests were negative on Franco. He was cleared to play again and will be in the lineup this afternoon.

— Rays skipper Kevin Cash said 1B/DH Ji-Man Choi and OF Brett Phillips are both playing in today’s double header in the Florida Complex League, and could go on the upcoming road trip.

— RHP Matt Wisler could face hitters tomorrow after throwing a bullpen session on Friday.

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