After a 9-4 loss to the Orioles on Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays look to get back on the winning side of the ledger with a doubleheader on Saturday in Baltimore. Since pulling within a game of .500, the Rays dropped four consecutive games, while Baltimore enters play on a three-game win streak.
In all four losses, the Rays have out hit the opposition yet they have struggled with runners in scoring position, going 6-33. Tampa Bay collected 15 hits last night, but all but three were singles, while only one came with a runner on base. Baltimore hit four homers, including a Manny Machado grand slam, accounting for eight of its nine runs.
On the bright side, Wilson Ramos enters the double header on a 17-game hit streak, two shy of tying the franchise record of 19 set by Jason Bartlett in 2009.
The New What Next
In the first game of double header, Chris Archer (2-2, 5.32 ERA) will toes the rubber opposite of David Hess (2-0, 2.12 ERA) who will make his big league debut. Matt Andriese (0-1, 3.92 ERA) will throw in the nightcap, pitching opposite of former Ray Alex Cobb (0-4, 7.61 ERA)
Chris Archer fanned six, walked none and scattered five hits over seven strong innings on Sunday. Previous to this start, Archer had performed to a 6.05 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP, but he notched his second consecutive quality start and his third in his last four outings. His current peripherals still aren’t pretty, and he hasn’t been striking out batters at quite as prolific a rate as he had in the past, but he appears ready to move past his early season struggles and start to hack away at those ugly peripherals. Archer is 6-8 with a 4.92 ERA in 17 starts against Baltimore, including a 5-1/3 inning, four-run outing on April 26th.
David Hess has made six starts with Norfolk and will be pitching on three days rest after throwing seven shutout innings against Rays affiliate Durham in his last start. Hess leans heavily on his 93 mph fastball, working it inside and low most often as it lacks horizontal movement, and gets barreled up when it’s elevated. He has fringe command of his slider which features hard tilt, sweeping action and late movement. He also has a get-me-over curveball with mild depth and spin, and a firm changeup with very mild fade.
Rays 5/11/18 Starting Lineup (game one)
Matt Andriese last started on April 29th, when he threw 3-1/3 scoreless frames against the Red Sox. Anthony Banda has been called up from Durham, and is the 26th man for Tampa Bay in the twinbill.
Alex Cobb allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk, while striking out five over six innings in a loss to the Athletics on Sunday. Cobb has put together back-to-back quality starts, although he is bereft of his first win of the season. His offense failed him Sunday, as the Orioles were able to push across just one run. In spite of solid performances in his last two outings, Cobb still sits with a 7.61 ERA/5.32 FIP and 2.03 WHIP as a result of a disastrous start to the season. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (1-3, 2B, 2 RBI), Brad Miller (4-9, 2B, 2 RBI, BB), Daniel Robertson (1-2, 2B), Mallex Smith (1-2), Denard Span (2-3, 2B), Joey Wendle (2-3, RBI)
Rays 5/11/18 Starting Lineup (game two)
You can read more about the series in our preview.
— By now you are likely aware of the recent comments by former face of the franchise, Evan Longoria.
Honestly, and this is maybe not something I should say, but my gut tells me that the best decision might be to move the team, Evan Longoria said Thursday. I say that only because I look at the example of the Miami Marlins, and (a new stadium) didn’t really solve their attendance issues. So from purely an attendance standpoint, somewhere else might be better.
It pains me to say that, but players want to play in a place where you have consistent support. It’s a selfish thing to say probably as a player, but, I don’t know, does anyone really want to play in front of 10,000 a night? I don’t know. I’m glad I won’t have to hear the backlash again this time (for making comments about attendance, as when he played there).
There are a lot of dedicated Rays fans … and obviously it would be a shame for those people to lose the team. But you just hope there is consistent fan support, and it historically hasn’t been there. I don’t know that it’s the easiest case to lobby to build a new stadium in the area. It’s not a slam dunk.
If there is going to be a new stadium built in the Tampa Bay area, Longoria said it definitely should be on the Tampa side, although he did not agree with the Ybor City site that has been identified as the top choice.
I think they should move across the street from Raymond James. They should build a stadium that looks just like Houston, or very similar to (Minute Maid Park, which has a retractable roof). You can’t play outside there (in Tampa Bay), it has to be a retractable. And obviously it should be grass. If you can do it in Houston you can do it in Florida – you can grow grass in Florida indoors.
Longoria made a few great points (Ybor is a bad location, Westshore is the best spot in Tampa) though he, by and large, missed the mark with his tone deaf comments.
Our market size is not comparable to others, although we are the 13th largest media market in the country — ahead of Portland (22), Las Vegas (40), Charlotte and Nashville. Longoria seems to have forgotten that Major League Baseball likely would not allow for the relocation of a team from a larger media market to a smaller one.
What’s more, sports fans in the Tampa Bay region have three professional teams — not to mention a wide variety of outside activities — to support with our remaining disposable income. As it was stated elsewhere, the Tampa Bay core is not as wealthy or populated as other pro cities with three teams. As a result, Tampa Bay has never had all three teams thriving at the gate.
There is a belief that pro sports can thrive here, which I agree with, and the Rays are clearly pulling a profit in spite of what others may claim; after all there is a reason Stu Sternberg won’t open the books. Yet there will always be a contrary perception since fans in the area choose not to drive across a bridge, regardless of where a stadium is located, to support the team. That is to say, the problem with attendance really has nothing to do with the current facility — although I do believe the Rays would do better with a new facility, even if just marginally so — or accessibility, rather it has to do with people choosing to attend games over the wide variety of activities in the area.
The bridge did not become longer over the last 5-10 years, and the traffic entering Pinellas is far batter than the traffic going in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, the Lightning has done a far better job at marketing the team, making it “cool,” and drawing fans away from both the Buccaneers and the Rays. If you haven’t noticed, neither team has done much to inspire their fan-base since 2013 (in the very least) and the attendance for both has steadily fallen.
I’m sorry Evan, but the Rays biggest problems are perception and marketing, and rightly so — Sternberg, for better or worse, is the face of the franchise, and to be frankly honest he is an asshole. Just ask anyone off the record. Yes, the team could use a new stadium, however, that facility will be built in a community that commits the most resources toward the project, not the location favored by those who can, yet don’t, make it out to the ball park.
Evan, if you have done one thing, it’s give your former boss something with which he will bandy about in order to build leverage, not good will, in the stadium saga. If anything, Sternberg should use Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s example toward making the team vibrant, fun, and cool again.