The Tampa Bay Rays return home, after having dropped four of their last six games, where they’ll face the AL East leading Toronto Blue Jays, who’s won five of their last six. Tampa Bay actually has a 7-6 edge in the season series, although Toronto took two of three in the most recent series (August 8-10).
Despite the sloppy-play induced slump, the Rays played just a game under .500 throughout August. Since the All-Star Break, Tampa Bay’s pitching staff has the lowest ERA in the American League. However, the pitching staff also has posted a combined 4.23 ERA/4.41 ERA over the last 14 days, due in part to an overworked bullpen that’s had to cover a lot of ground over that stretch.
The big story surrounding the upcoming series is the return of Alex Cobb, who will make his first big-league start in almost two years following Tommy John surgery. Expectations have to be lowered for his return, although with Tampa Bay out of contention, there is little to no pressure on Cobb to dominant in his return…although that would be pretty great to see.
Cobb had an ERA under 3.00 in 2013 and 2014, including a 10-9 mark with a 2.87 ERA in 2014 after going 11-3 with a 2.76 in 2013.
Kevin Cash will throw the above mentioned C0bb (0-3, 6.65 ERA), Blake Snell (4-7, 3.56 ERA), and Chris Archer (8-17, 4.10 ERA) over the next three days. John Gibbons will counter with Marcus Stroman (9-5, 4.58 ERA) and RA Dickey (9-13, 4.43 ERA), with Saturday’s starter TBA.
Note: There may be a shuffling of the rotation, contrary to what you see above. We’ll keep you abreast of any changes/updates.
Rays Series Starters
Cobb struggled in eight rehab starts, going 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP. Rays manager Kevin Cash remains encouraged, however. As I wrote above, tempered expectations are the key with Alex.
Snell was pulled in the fourth inning of his start Saturday against the Astros, after he was struck on the left leg by a comebacker. In that outing, the southpaw allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits and no walks while striking out three. Though he sustained some bruising and soreness, Snell noticed improvement with his condition and doesn’t anticipate a stint on the DL (you know, hence the start).
Archer allowed three runs on four hits and two walks over seven innings on Sunday, striking out 10 Astros along the way. The righty has surrendered three or fewer runs in five of his last six starts, allowing him to lower his ERA some 32 points, from 4.42 to 4.10. He also surpassed the 200 strikeout mark once again, and has a fair chance of punching out at least 250 in back-to-back seasons.
Blue Jays Series Starters
Stroman will take Francisco Liriano’s scheduled start Friday night. The 25 year-old righty looks for a better result than his previous outing in which he surrendered five runs over six innings, but took a no-decision in the Blue Jays’ 8-7 win. In three starts against Tampa Bay Stroman is 2-1 with a 4.57 ERA this season, including an abominable 5.2 IP/7 R/13 H/2 BB outing back on May 13. Key matchups: Curt Casali (2-6, RBI), Corey Dickerson (3-9, 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (4-14, 2 2B, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (8-16, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB)
Dickey luckily came away with a no-decision on Sunday after he allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits and three walks over six innings while striking out five. Josh Donaldson’s throwing error led to two unearned runs and helped salvage what otherwise was a rough outing for the knuckleballer. Dickey’s managed an excellent 0.31 HR/9 in August after giving up just one homer in 29 innings over five starts leading to a solid 3.41 ERA, although there’s reason to believe he’ll regress back to his 1.52 HR/9 season norm. The Rays have hammered Dickey, tagging the righty with 12 runs (11 earned) on 20 hits, including four homers, over 15-1/3 innings this season Key matchups: Curt Casali (1-4), Logan Forsythe (8-26, 2 2B, 3 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (14-50, 5 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 6 BB), Brad Miller 4-12, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Logan Morrison (9-28, 2 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (3-12, HR, RBI, 2 BB)
— ICYMI Part Deux, Tampa Bay promoted Curt Casali, Ryan Garton, and Eddie Gamboa on Thursday.