After a 5-1 win over the Orioles on Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rays look to win a series against Baltimore on Sunday. A victory also would bring Tampa Bay (24-26) within a game of .500 ahead of the jaunt out west to Oakland and Seattle.
For the third straight game, Tampa Bay will start a right-handed reliever against Baltimore’s right-handed heavy lineup. Sergio Romo (1-1, 4.66 ERA) will start the game for the second time in this series, and fourth time in the last nine days — becoming the first pitcher to do that since Claude Osteen (July 17-25, 1975). He allowed a run on Friday after a two-out strikeout-wild pitch, the only run he’s allowed opening a game.
The strategy has worked by an large. Aside from Romo’s work, Ryne Stanek looked phenomenal on Saturday. Starting his first game since he was in Double-A Montgomery (2016), Stanek needed just 21 pitches to retire all five batters he faced on a groundout, three swinging strikeouts, and a fly-ball out. The right-hander topped out at 101 mph on multiple occasions, and of his 21 pitches 14 went for strikes with eight swings-and-misses (57% SwStr%). It was, without a doubt, his best performance as a Ray, and allowed him to drop his ERA to 4.05 (down from 5.40).
All told, Tampa Bay’s relievers first strategy has been fruitful, with Romo and Stanek performing to a combined 4.2 IP/1 ER/2 H/2 BB/10 K line.
Austin Pruitt is slated for the bulk of the innings against Baltimore, although Tampa Bay will also have an extra arm in the bullpen the next few days.
We’ve optioned LH Anthony Banda to Triple-A @DurhamBulls. A corresponding move will be made tomorrow.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 26, 2018
CONGRATS to Jaime Schultz, who has been called up to the bigs for the first time in his career! pic.twitter.com/dxSK5jhwzf
— Durham Bulls (@DurhamBulls) May 27, 2018
Following last night’s game, Anthony Banda was been optioned back to Triple-A Durham in order to make room for the hard throwing Nathan Eovaldi in the rotation, but in the interim, the Rays have called up RHP Jaime Schultz to fill that roster spot.
Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.48 ERA) will take the mound against the Rays. Gausman fanned 10 in 6-1/3 scoreless innings on Tuesday. He allowed nine hits and one walk in the no-decision against. Gausman was staked to a two-run lead when he left the game, but Baltimore’s ‘pen gave it up. This was Gausman’s sixth quality start on the season, and perhaps his most impressive of all, as he recorded a career-high 25 swinging strikes against a befuddled White Sox lineup. He now has an excellent 3.87 K/BB and 3.48 ERA over 62 innings of work. He allowed two runs on 11 hits over 7-1/3 innings against Tampa Bay on the 11th, and is 6-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 13 career starts against the Rays. Seven of those starts came at the Trop, where he is 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (5-14, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Matt Duffy (2-4), Wilson Ramos (3-12, HR, RBI), Rob Refsnyder (3-8, 2B, BB), Mallex Smith (3-10, 3B, BB), Denard Span (6-13, 3 2B, 3 RBI), Jesus Sucre (2-6, 2 2B, 1 RBI), Joey Wendle (1-4)
You can read about the series in our preview.
Rays 5/27/18 Starting Lineup
— Per Thomas Bassinger (Tampa Bay Times):
The Rays have gone four games without hitting a home run, their longest drought of the season. Only two teams have had longer droughts — the Reds, who went six games without a homer, and the Brewers, who went five games.
Heading into Saturday’s game, the Rays had hit 46 home runs, the fifth fewest in baseball. Willy Adames, who was optioned back to Triple-A Durham on Thursday, was the last player to hit one (May 22).
Teams who haven’t hit a home run in a game have lost twice as often as they have won. The Rays are 6-15.
— As we posited on Friday, Kevin Cash confirmed that the Rays will close out games by committee, with the team using some combination of Jose Alvarado, Chaz Roe and maybe Sergio Romo.
I don’t think we’re in a position to name a closer right now, Cash said. We’ve learned over many years of doing this that games are won and lost in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and we want to be prepare to use who we feel is best equipped to get those outs right then and then we’ll figure out the ninth when that time comes.
— Per Neil Solondz (Rays Radio):
Wilmer Font has also officially joined the Rays after arriving during yesterday’s game. The right handed reliever was acquired in a trade with the A’s on Friday. Ironically, he’ll be making his return to Oakland right away on the upcoming road trip, where Font said his family is still living as of now.