The Tampa Bay Rays are ready to open their season-ending series on Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Both teams are coming off series losses to the Yankees and Astros (respectively).
The Rays are looking to close the book on a stellar second half after starting the season with a disappointing 4-13 overall record. Tampa Bay has a legitimate shot of winning 90 games for the first time since 2013, making the small market heroes a popular pick to sneak into the postseason in 2019. More than that though, the players are looking to set some individual achievements this weekend.
Blake Snell will take the hill on Saturday with one last start to solidify his AL Cy Young Award bid. 1B/DH C.J. Cron, who had hit 16 homers in each of his three seasons with Los Angeles, enters the series with 29 and a shot to get over 30. 3B Matt Duffy has a chance to become the first qualifying Ray (3.1 plate appearance per team game, 502 for a full season) to hit .300 in seven years, since Casey Kotchman in 2011. Then there is Joey Wendle, who is vying for an AL Rookie of the Year nomination.
Recently-acquired OF Tommy Pham has been on fire since coming over at the trade deadline. Pham is batting a healthy .346 with seven home runs, seven doubles, and five triples as a member of the Rays, sporting a 2.3 fWAR and a 1.087 OPS in 35 games with his new team.
But Pham insisted you have not seen the best of him yet in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, saying:
Offensively, I’m still trying to figure out some things. And I think when I do figure it out, whether it be this year or the offseason because it will be figured out before next season, I think I could truly be the player I think I’m capable of being. I just haven’t figured out how to fix myself just yet.
I have a lot of ability. The key to this game is just putting it all together. The guys that are really good in this game, they know how to put it together. And when you showcase it consistently, you get the great you. I haven’t showcased my ability consistently like I did last year. … The key is being consistent all year.
Over the next three days Kevin Cash will lean on Tyler Glasnow (2-7, 4.23 ERA), Blake Snell (21-5, 1.90 ERA), and an as of now unnamed array of hurlers in the season finale. John Gibbons, who could be managing in his last series with Toronto, will counter with Thomas Pannone (4-1, 3.86 ERA), Ryan Borucki (4-5, 3.76 ERA), and Marco Estrada (7-14, 5.64 ERA).
Tyler Glasnow took the loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday despite throwing a quality start. The right-hander allowed six hits (including a home run) and two walks while striking out six across six innings. Glasnow gave up all three runs in the fourth inning on a Rowdy Tellez two-run homer and Reese McGuire’s run-scoring double. It was his fourth quality start in five outings although he is just 1-5 in his last six turns on the mound.
Thomas Pannone earned the win Saturday against Tampa Bay, pitching 6-2/3 innings while allowing two runs on six hits (including two home runs) and three walks. He struck out five. Pannone has won each of his last three outings, all quality starts. He, however, has struck out only 6.2 batters per nine innings and doesn’t boast much velocity (88.4 mph average before Saturday’s outing). The Rays seek to pay him back. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (2-5), CJ Cron (1-2, BB), Brandon Lowe (1-2), Tommy Pham (1-3, HR, RBI), Mallex Smith (2-4, 2B), Jesus Sucre (1-3, HR, RBI), Joey Wendle (1-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB)
Blake Snell blanked Toronto across 6-2/3 innings on Sunday, allowing three hits and two walks. He struck out 11. The southpaw was outstanding once again, winning his ninth consecutive start. Snell relinquished just three singles and during his nine-start winning streak has given up only six earned runs in 46 innings. He has a sterling 1.90 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP this season.
Ryan Borucki was dealt a loss on Sunday even though he allowed just two runs on three hits and four walks while striking out seven over seven innings. Borucki was solid once again, limiting the opposition to two runs or fewer for his fourth straight start. Borucki was nicked for RBI doubles in the fourth and sixth innings, saddling him with the loss. He is 0-2 but with a 2.77 ERA against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Carlos Gomez (1-2), Tommy Pham (1-4, 2 BB), Joey Wendle (1-4, 2B, RBI, 2 BB)
Marco Estrada allowed four runs on seven hits and one walk across 4-2/3 innings. He struck out one. Estrada got off to a rocky start, giving up a run in the first inning, two in the second and another in the third. Two of the four runs allowed came via the home-run ball. Estrada owns a 5.64 ERA and 103 strikeouts across 143-2/3 frames in what could be his final outing as a Blue Jay. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-1, 2B, BB), Ji-Man Choi (2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI), CJ Cron (2-7, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Matt Duffy (2-6, 2B, 3 RBI), Carlos Gomez (3-6, BB), Jesus Sucre (1-2, HR, RBI)
— Kevin Kiermaier was shut down for the rest of the season after he was hit on the foot by an 84 mph slider from Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday.
It didn’t feel good from the start, Kiermaier said. I hate coming out of games and I wanted to try and tough it out.
After being pulled from the game in the third inning, an X-ray revealed a hairline fracture in a small bone on the side of the foot.
It’s just an unfortunate way for me to end the season but that’s kind of my 2018, in a nutshell, Kiermaier said. I feel like everything that could’ve went wrong for me did.
I just want to let everyone know that I wasn’t the player that I know I could have been this, obviously the worst of my career dating back my whole life, ever since I was born. I take my job and what I do very seriously. But it seems like every ball I hit hard this year was an out. Every diving play that could have been made was made on me. And of course an 84 mph slider breaks a bone in my foot.
— Matt Duffy left Wednesday’s game after the first inning with right quad tightness that he said had been bothering him for several days. Duffy said he isn’t ruling out returning this weekend although he is going to be cautious.