Most of us hoped we’d see David Price on the 25-man roster on this day following the trade deadline, but low and behold he is not. And for those of us who thought the post Price era would commence in 2015, the future is now. We won’t know the ultimate state of the rotation until Tuesday when Drew Smyly takes the mound for Tampa Bay, so the Rays — as of now — will take the field against the Angels this weekend, void of their biggest supporter in the dugout. David Price was more than just an excellent pitcher, he was an outstanding teammate. The loss is palpable.
If the Rays are going to maintain the attack on the jugular of their opponents, they will have to brush off their shoulders and move on. I know, that’s easier said than done.
It’s now up to Alex Cobb, Ben Zobrist, and Evan Longoria to step up to the metaphorical plate, and fill the chasm left in Price’s wake. Cobb said it best,
The Number one message needs to be is the fact there will no quitting in the clubhouse. We’re not throwing in the white towel.
Enter the Angels.
The 64-43 Angels have a commanding 8.5 game lead in the Wildcard race. They enter The Trop on the heels of a series loss at the hands of the Orioles — including a 13-inning contest in Baltimore, Thursday. Though they ended the symbolic first half of the season with an impressive 12-3 run, the Angels have cooled down significantly since the All-Star Break, dropping six of their last 13 with Mike Trout slumping and the offense struggling. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. The Angels, who moved within two games of AL West-leading Oakland, outscored the Rays by an 18-10 margin en route to seizing three of four from May 15-18 in Anaheim. To be fair, the Rays were also in the throes of their worst play at that point.
The Rays’ bullpen will need to be exceptional over the span of this series. The Angels lay claim to 33 come-from-behind wins (the most in the majors), including 13 from two or more runs, and six from the seventh inning on.
Matt Shoemaker: Shoemaker (8-3, 4.13 ERA) was very good against the Rays back in May, tossing six innings of one run ball. He’s had some ups and downs since that start, though he’s been pretty good in his last four outings since he yielding eight runs over 4-1/3 innings on June 27. Shoemaker has a legit curve/splitter/slider combination, and an iffy fastball. The whiff rates on his slider (19%) and splitter (24%) are well above average. Moreover, his curve is meh by whiffs (6%) but works as a change of pace that elicits grounders (56% ground balls). He doesn’t have a great overall ground-ball rate, but he tends to go to the curve when he needs a grounder. However, Shoemaker’s velocity on his two fastballs (around 91) is average, and the whiff rates (5% and 5.3% respectively) are not great. His sinker has only gotten 38.3% ground balls over his major league career, too, so it’s a well below-average pitch by results. All this is to say, if the Rays can do what they’re wont to do and work good at-bats, they could bat Shoemaker around. Key matchups: Matt Joyce (1-2, BB).
CJ Wilson: Wilson (8-6, 4.33 ERA) has been on the DL since incurring an ankle injury at the beginning of July. While his poor, three plus inning outing prior to his placement on the DL can be explained by a lingering ankle issue, his seven starts of four earned runs or more cannot. If I must be fair to the preeminent Head and Shoulders’ sales jockey, his best outing of the year was a doozy of a complete game shutout against… The Rays. Womp womp. Key matchups: Yunel Escobar (5-11, 2B, 3 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (1-3), Sean Rodriguez (7-22, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB), Ben Zobrist (7-26, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB).
Jered Weaver: Weaver (11-6, 3.62) — Subway’s all-time best pitchman — is a far cry from his previous ace-like self. I mean, had you told me at the height of his prowess, that he’d relinquish four or more runs, seven times in a partial season, I’d have laughed in your face. But that’s the reality for the tall RHP, whose fastball velocity has been on a constant decline over the last few seasons. The Rays lone 2014 win against The The Angels Angels came against Weaver, in a well pitched, 7 IP/2 ER start. Tampa Bay has posted a productive .284 BA/.333 OBP/.503 SLG/.836 slash line against Weaver, and the Rays will try to continue that success, Sunday. Key matchups: Yunel Escobar (6-10, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB), James Loney (10-32, 2 2B, 4 RBI), Evan Longoria (5-15, 3 2B, 2 BB), Jose Molina (4-13, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Sean Rodriguez (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Ben Zobrist (6-18, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 4 RBI, BB).
- The Angels lead the season series 3-1, are 86-62 overall, and 38-32 at The Trop.
- Per the Sports Xchange, “Hellickson pitched well in his second start since returning from elbow surgery in January, scattering five hits over 4 2/3 scoreless innings against Boston on Saturday. The 27-year-old has dominated the Angels in his career, posting a 3-1 mark with a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP while limiting the club to a .207 batting average. Hellickson permitted only four hits in 5 1/3 scoreless innings in his last meeting with Los Angeles in 2013.”
- James Loney is riding an on-base streak of 19 games and went 4-for-14 with three RBI in the previous series versus the Angels.
- Now without Price to catch, do any of you think Jose Molina will be held accountable for his horrendous offense?