After back-to-back shutout losses to Milwaukee, the Tampa Bay Rays are in salvage mode Sunday afternoon. The Rays have been shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since April 14-15 of last season. During this stretch, Tampa Bay is 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
It doesn’t help that run producers, like Steven Souza Jr., spat on perfectly placed pitches and don’t pull the trigger.
Then again, performing to an ice-cold .154 BABIP on the night, it is safe to say the Brewers summoned the luck dragons before the game. Milwaukee has not pitched back-to-back shutouts on the road since April 2010 at Pittsburgh. What an esteemed honor for Tampa Bay.
With the losses, the Rays fell a game behind Kansas City for the final playoff spot, 2-1/2 back of New York for the lead Wildcard spot, and 5-1/2 back of the Red Sox, who have won five straight. To put it bluntly, they need a win this afternoon.
The New What Next
Chris Archer (8-6, 3.89 ERA, 3.19 FIP) will get the start for the Rays, opposite of Jimmy Nelson (9-5, 3.37 ERA, 3.11 FIP).
Archer saw his streak of six consecutive quality come to an end on Tuesday after he allowed four runs — two of which on a pair of solo homers. He did go six-plus innings, so he has pitched at least six innings in 14 consecutive starts. Archer cruised through the first four innings, giving up just one single. He, however, found himself in deep counts against a team that has struck out the fewest times in all of baseball. That, paired with some loud contact, speaks to the fact that Archer really wasn’t that dominant.
Nelson leads Milwaukee with 13 quality starts on the season, including a 3-2 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday. He has never faced the Rays, although he is 4-2 with a 4.66 ERA in 10 road starts this season. Nelson relies primarily upon a 94 mph worm-burner of a sinker and a whiffy 95 mph four-seam fastball. He also tends to mix in a hard 85 mph curveball, and a fly-ball inducing 80 mph slider. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (1-2, 3B, 2 RBI), Adeiny Hechavarria (2-3), Wilson Ramos (2-3, HR, RBI), Mallex Smith (1-2, 3B, RBI)
Rays 8/6/17 Starting Lineup
— One positive from last night … well, the last nine games, Lucas Duda has reached base in all nine games since joining the team. Per Roger Mooney (Tampa Bay Times) that’s the longest such streak since Akinori Iwamura reached base in his first 12 games in 2007.
— Mooney also wrote about Archer’s game prep going into the finale with the Brewers:
To prepare for today’s start against a team he has never faced, RHP Chris Archer began watching video of the Brewers early in the season. But not just any video: video of batters facing pitchers similar to Archer — hard throwers with above-average sliders, like Nationals RHP Max Scherzer.
Armed with that knowledge, Archer said the second step is to follow the game plan by pitching coach Jim Hickey, which rookie RHP Jacob Faria did in six innings of one-run ball Friday.
“Because we all know that’s his strong suit, is attacking hitters,” Archer said of Faria. “Watching the way Jake attacked (Friday) night, he followed the game plan pretty much to a T and had pretty good results, so looking to duplicate that.”