After winning their second consecutive game against the Baltimore Orioles, each by a 6-3 margin, the Tampa Bay Rays look to sweep the series on Wednesday. A win would allow the Rays to earn their second home sweep of the season, and a fifth straight win overall, ahead of their huge four-game weekender leading into the All-Star Break.
Charlie Morton was dominant in his outing against Baltimore, allowing one earned run on four hits and a walk while striking out 12 across seven innings. Morton’s sole blemish of the contest came on a third-inning solo homer by Chris Davis, otherwise, he held the Orioles without an extra-base hit and didn’t allow a baserunner into scoring position until his final inning of work. It was his second double-digit strikeout performance of the season, and he’s now racked up 132 strikeouts across 107 innings of work. Morton has also supplied All-Star ratios, managing a 2.36 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.
Brandon Lowe, who exited the game with a lower leg injury, had three hits on the night (including a first-inning home run), and drove in a pair of runs.
In the sixth inning, Lowe twice fouled a ball off his right leg — once below his shin-guard and once above. Thankfully the X-rays came back negative, and he was diagnosed with a lower leg contusion. He, however, was on crutches after the game. Lowe is listed as day-to-day and will be re-evaluated before this evening’s contest.
After Lowe was replaced by pinch runner Yandy Diaz, Tommy Pham came up big, driving in a pair of insurance runs on an RBI double.
The extra runs were important, as Chaz Roe, who closed out the game, was Chaz Roe — allowing a pair of runs to score on a two-run, ninth-inning blast. I know…I also don’t understand why Cash continues to roll him out.
The New What Next
Ryne Stanek (0-1, 2.64 ERA), who threw two scoreless innings in the first game of this series, will open the game, pitching opposite of John Means (7-4, 2.50 ERA).
Stanek will either be followed by Yonny Chirinos (7-4, 3.10 ERA), or Kevin Cash has a full complement of relievers in the ‘pen, as Colin Poche, Andrew Kittredge and Austin Pruitt have not pitched in this set.
Assuming it’s Chirinos…
Yonny Chirinos allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks over six innings while striking out five on Friday. It was far from a sharp outing by Chirinos even though he, technically, tossed a quality start. The error that led to the unearned run was his own, while Chirinos threw only 59 of 105 pitches for strikes (56% strike rate) en route to a season-high four walks — for context, he hadn’t walked more than two batters in any previous outing. The right-hander still maintains a 3.10 ERA and 3.62 K/BB across 93 innings on the season. Chirinos is 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA in five career outings (two starts) against Baltimore.
John Means tossed five scoreless innings on Friday, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out five. This was his first start off the injured list after not having pitched since June 16, which speaks to why he was not allowed to go deeper into the outing while sitting at 84 pitches (53 strikes, 63% strike rate). Means now has a 2.50 ERA that ranks fifth in the majors behind only Hyun-Jin Ryu, Mike Soroka, Mike Minor, and Charlie Morton. However, his 3.94 FIP illustrates the fact that he may be pitching a little over his head. The right-hander has allowed more than three earned runs just once, although he hasn’t pitched more than six innings since the beginning of May. Either way, he has been extremely effective across 75-2/3 innings this season. Means is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one outing against the Rays this season (2 IP).
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.
Rays 7/3/19 Starting Lineup
- d’Arnaud 1B
- Pham LF
- Diaz 3B
- Garcia DH
- Kiermaier CF
- Brosseau 2B
- Zunino C
- Wendle SS
- Heredia RF
— 1B Ji-Man Choi has been placed on the 10-day Injured List with a left ankle strain, while rookie infielder Mike Brosseau has been recalled to replace him.
Brosseau went 3-for-8 with three runs batted in during his first Major League stint and hit his 15th home run last night for Durham.
Choi has struggled of late, hitting .152 with a .568 OPS over his last 15 games. The move to the IL comes at a good time in that he could miss just six games — the final five contests before the All-Star Break and the first one after. Overall, Choi is hitting .266 with nine homers, 33 RBI and a .774 OPS.
— More roster moves: Tampa Bay sent INF/OF Andrew Velazquez to Cleveland for international bonus pool money, a move to clear space on the 40-man roster. As Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) writes, the Rays have five players on the 60-day DL they potentially will need space for, starting with pitcher Jose De Leon, whose thrice-extended rehab assignment from Tommy John surgery is about to end.
Jose De Leon was activated off the 60-day IL and optioned to Triple-A Durham, where he had been pitching in his thrice-extended rehab stint. He is 0-1 with a 3.99 ERA in nine games, (29-1/3 innings).
Casey Sadler, who was designated for assignment on Saturday, was traded to the Dodgers for minor-league right-hander Nathan Witt. The hurler was 1-2 with a 5.32 ERA in 22 games at Class-A Great Lakes and will join Class A Bowling Green.
Nick Ciuffo, who was designated for assignment, has gone through release waivers and is now a free agent.
— Decent +20-thousand crowds have shown up to the ole ballpark the last two nights, with a third large crowd expected tonight as well. The same is anticipated this weekend with the Yankees coming into town.
I know, what you’re thinking, “…but that’s only because the Rays sold out of the 30-thousand $2.00 tickets that were made available prior to the start of this series.” That is undoubtedly true. And it should not be forgotten that a good number of fans came through the turnstiles when the Rays had a $5.00 flash sale a few weeks back, which led into a successful day/night doubleheader with the Rowdies. To the naysayers, I posit this: 10-thousand fans per night, at $2.00 a pop, is far better than 30-thousand (overall) empty seats. The team made a moderate revenue on the ticket sales and even more money when you factor in concessions and team merchandise — cash they wouldn’t have generated otherwise.
To Stu Sternberg and the Rays front office, fans have shown that they will attend games when family-friendly and affordable ticket options are offered. Instead of bashing the market and the fan-base, saying things like an 81-game season is untenable in Tampa Bay (and yes, most of us know that’s a rhetorical leverage ploy), how about continuing to roll out ticket specials throughout the balance of the season? The Rays have hit the 20-thousand mark 11 times in 2019, and we aren’t at the halfway point yet. For context, 20-thousand fans (or more) attended just nine ballgames last season. We love the love Rays in Tampa Bay. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.