Let’s focus on better times, like when Wander Franco hit a home run against Atlanta on Sunday. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After an ugly 6-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles — yes, the Orioles — on Monday, the Tampa Bay Rays look to get back on the winning side of the ledger, and even up the three series, tonight.

Monday’s loss was the first in seven meetings against the Orioles this season, and just the second loss in the last 14 games between the AL East rivals. Meanwhile, Baltimore has won three consecutive games overall, tying their longest win streak of the ’21 campaign.

At 55-39 on the season, Tampa Bay enters play 16-games over .500 and now 1.5 games behind Boston in the AL East.

Ryan Yarbrough got the start Monday and coughed up six runs on eight hits and two walks over 5.2 innings. He struck out five. Baltimore didn’t hit the southpaw particularly hard, as a first-inning double by Ryan Mountcastle was the only extra-base hit Yarbrough surrendered. However, given how little run support he received, Yarbs had little to no margin for error. The ebbs and flows of Yarbrough … the lefty has lasted six innings only once in his last five outings. On the season, Yarbrough maintains a 4.59 ERA and a 4.20 FIP, with a 1.22 WHIP and a 4.42 K/BB across 102.0 innings pitched.

Yarbrough’s outing speaks to a larger problem, as the Rays have given up five or more runs in four consecutive games — a total of 26 runs — with the starters on the hook for 20 runs. Aside from overtaxing the arms of the relief staff, the Rays need to address this skid (for lack of a better word) sooner, with an eye toward arms at Triple-A Durham, or later at the trade deadline. With 68 games left to play, Tampa Bay can ill afford to limp into the playoffs.

Speaking of limping, three players — Mike Zunino, Yandy Díaz, and Randy Arozarena — incurred injuries of some sort Monday night.

Zunino exited the game in the third inning due to left hip flexor tightness, with Francisco Mejía taking his place behind the dish. The Rays primary backstop said that he felt his hip tighten up while he was running out of the batter’s box on a second-inning groundout. Even so, Zunino got back behind the plate in the top of the third inning. He told the media after the game he could have stayed in if necessary, but he didn’t want to run the risk of aggravating things later in the game.

I wanted to stay ahead of it. It’s one of those things where I hate putting Yarbs in that situation. I hate putting Mejía in that situation as the game went on. I think it was a safe thing to do. … I don’t want to be overly confident, but I’m feeling pretty good with how it’s bouncing back.

— Mike Zunino

The team checked on Zunino this morning, and even though he will NOT start tonight, he IS available off the bench according to Marc Topkin.

Díaz was replaced by Vidal Bruján in the sixth inning when he exited the game due to neck spasms. Díaz received some treatment and medicine to calm down whatever was bothering him, and his injury appears to be less of a concern.

Hopefully, they’re both day-to-day, and you never know, you might wake up and both of them feel good tomorrow. Certainly, that’s our hope.

— Kevin Cash

Arozarena face-planted into the dirt in front of second base when he was caught stealing in the fourth inning. He came up with a bloody nose that delayed his return to right field at the top of the following frame.

I think he’s fine. I think his momentum took him a little quicker than his arms were ready to extend, and it was kind of an awkward thing. I didn’t recognize it as it happened, but when you got out there and you saw it on replay, (Arozarena) avoided a scare because he caught a lot of his face and upper lip area. But he seems to be OK.

— Kevin Cash

It was the fifth time in as many tries that Arozarena was caught stealing; he hasn’t hit a homer or swiped a bag in over a month.

You can find injury updates on Tyler Glasnow and Nick Anderson below, in Noteworthiness.

The New What Next

Shane McClanahan (3-3, 4.05 ERA) will get the start tonight, pitching opposite of John Means (4-2, 2.28 ERA).

Shane McClanahan allowed one run on four hits and three walks over four innings against the Blue Jays two Fridays ago. He struck out five. In a matchup featuring Alek Manoah and McClanahan, neither pitcher lasted until the fifth inning. Tampa Bay’s rookie southpaw tossed 58 of 91 pitches for strikes (64% strike rate) in an inefficient outing, although he did fan at least five batters for the fourth consecutive start. McClanahan maintains a 4.05 ERA and a 3.80 FIP on the season, with a 1.27 WHIP and 3.38 K/BB across 60.0 innings.

John Means will be activated from the IL to start Tuesday’s game. It’s been an eventful year for Means, who logged the best start of his career — a no-hitter on May 5 in Seattle — amid a breakout season before missing almost six weeks due to a shoulder injury. He made three rehab appearances, building up to three innings in each of his last two outings, and he will likely be on some sort of pitch count Tuesday night. Overall, Means maintains a 2.28 ERA and a 4.20 FIP on the season, with a 0.83 WHIP and 5.31 K/BB across 71.0 innings. He is 0-0 with a 5.68 ERA in one 6.1 inning start against Tampa Bay this season. Key Matchups: Randy Arozrena (1-4, HR, RBI), Yandy Díaz (3-10, 2B, HR, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (2-7, 2B), Joey Wendle (2-7)

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

Rays 7/20/21 Starting Lineup

  1. Arozarena LF
  2. Bruján 2B
  3. Meadows DH
  4. Franco 3B
  5. B. Lowe RF
  6. Mejía C
  7. Choi 1B
  8. Walls SS
  9. Kiermaier CF
  10. McClanahan LHP

Noteworthiness

— In an appearance on the Chris Rose Rotation yesterday (linked below, and you really should watch the whole thing … it’s great), right-hander Tyler Glasnow mentioned that he is playing catch from 75-90 feet.

It’s still too early to say when Glasnow might return — he isn’t eligible for activation from the 60-day IL until August 14 — but it’s still encouraging both for him and the team.

I know it’s 75-90 feet, but it’s still Glasnow, and there’s reason to be excited behind it.

— Kevin Cash

According to Glasnow, the team discussed having him travel with them to Cleveland from July 22-25, however, pitching coach Kyle Snyder said he would likely benefit more from his routine work and treatment at Tropicana Field.

— Nick Anderson threw a bullpen session at the Trop on July 10 and is set to throw 15-20 pitches in live batting practice this afternoon. Anderson’s fastball sat in the 90-93 mph range, while his curveball clocked in the low 80’s.

He came away feeling really good with it, so that’s great news.

— Kevin Cash

While there is no exact date in mind for either Anderson’s return to the mound or the start of his rehab assignment, a few rounds of live batting practice are typically the last step before the start of a rehab stint. That being said, it would appear that he is on track for a return in mid-to-late August.

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