The Tampa Bay Rays are ready to begin their last Interleague series of the season in Cobb County, where they’ll face the Atlanta Braves in a brief two-game set starting Tuesday night. Tampa Bay swept Boston over the weekend, winning the series finale 9-1 at home on Sunday to record their eighth consecutive win. Atlanta split a four-game series in Miami against the Marlins, winning 4-0 to close that set Sunday.
Tampa Bay shut down the Red Sox over the weekend, outscoring the best team in baseball 24-5 in the three-game sweep. As a result, the Rays improved to 70-61 — nine games over .500 for the first time this season. They also swept their first homestand in franchise history, defeating the Kansas City Royals four-games-to-none before the Red Sox entered the big-top last Friday.
The Braves earned a split in their low scoring four-game series with the Marlins by winning the finale Sunday afternoon. They improved to 73-57 on the season and entered Monday with a three-game edge on the Phillies in the NL East race.
Both teams are fairly evenly keeled, with Atlanta scoring 1/10 of a run more than Tampa Bay on average, yet with the Rays allowing 3.68 runs per game as compared to the Braves, who’ve allowed 4.00.
The Rays have an excellent opportunity to make up some ground against the Athletics in the AL Wildcard race with Oakland taking on Houston in a three-game series, which started with an 11-4 romp by the reigning World Series champions Monday night.
The Braves swept the first two-game series between the teams in St. Petersburg from May 8-9.
Kevin Cash will open Tuesday’s game with Ryne Stanek (2-3, 2.53 ERA), who will be followed by Yonny Chirinos (2-5, 4.08 ERA), and Wednesday’s game with Diego Castillo (3-2, 3.23 ERA), who will be followed by Jalen Beeks (3-1, 6.62 ERA). Brian Snitker will respond with Julio Teherán (9-7, 4.09 ERA) and Sean Newcomb (11-6, 3.57 ERA).
Ryne Stanek threw one scoreless inning against the Red Sox on Saturday and is slated to make his 22nd “start” of the season. He’s expected to throw between one and two innings before giving way to Chirinos. Stanek has allowed just two runs over his last 7-2/3 innings of work.
Yonny Chirinos was credited with the win on Wednesday even though he allowed three runs on four hits while striking out four across five innings against the Royals. Ryne Stanek was the “opener” in this one, but it was Chirinos who got the bulk of the innings. The right-hander flat-out dealt for five-plus innings but allowed a costly two-run homer late in the game. At the end of the day, he was credited with his second win of the season, but the three earned runs inflated his ERA from 3.96 to 4.02.
Julio Teherán picked up the win in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh, allowing one run on two hits and a walk over seven innings of work. He struck out five. Teherán has been in a groove of late, delivering three consecutive quality starts while posting a 3.6 K/BB in 20 innings over that stretch. The right-hander blanked the Rays over six innings on May 4, allowing four hits while striking out seven; his lone career start against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (1-3), Matt Duffy (3-5, 2 2B, BB)
Diego Castillo worked 2-2/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox over two outings (Friday and Sunday). He struck out four Boston hitters and allowed two hits. Castillo has been very good, giving up just two runs over his last 14 innings of work (extending back to July 29).
Jalen Beeks was credited with the win on Friday when the Rays routed the Red Sox 10-3. He allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks across 5-1/3 innings of work while striking out four. Beeks wasn’t particularly sharp against his former club, throwing 59 of 97 pitches for strikes (61% strike rate, 13/24 first-pitch strikes) but the Rays offense did more than enough to cover for the southpaw, who has lowered his overall ERA to 6.62 (down from +13) with a 1.8 K/BB in six appearances (27-2/3 innings) since being traded to Tampa Bay.
Sean Newcomb allowed two hits while walking three and striking out eight over six scoreless innings to earn the win Thursday against Miami. Newcomb took advantage of the weak Marlins lineup to record his first scoreless start since June 16. He received an extra day of rest between starts, which may have helped him bounce back from consecutive subpar outings during which he gave up 12 earned runs across 9-1/3 innings. In any case, Newcomb struggled with efficiency, needing 111 pitches to retire 18 batters with only 64 of his pitches going for strikes (58% strike rate). Still, the left-hander relinquished just two hits, but three walks, across six scoreless innings against the Rays on May 8. He fanned six.
— Suffice it to say, the Rays’ bullpen has been very good, earning them accolades like the MLB bullpen of the week. By Do-Hyoung Park (MLB.com) wrote about the relief corps:
The Rays’ score of 137 made them the clear winner of the week, as their 33 strikeouts led all bullpens, while they walked only six batters and notched three saves. The A’s, who registered a 1.16 bullpen ERA, finished a distant second with 100 points, while the Blue Jays finished third with 97 points, thanks to a 1.21 ERA and three saves.
Tampa Bay allowed only two runs in the seventh inning and beyond all week — both in Wednesday’s game against the Royals — due to stellar late-inning work from Jose Alvarado and Sergio Romo, who combined for 7 1/3 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and two walks. Rookie lefty Ryan Yarbrough allowed one run in 10 1/3 innings during the week, spanning a start and a relief outing.
Overall, Rays hurlers have combined for a with 2.49 ERA and an opponents .259 BA/.335 OBP/.594 OPS line in the month of August, which is the best in baseball. Atlanta’s pitching staff has been very effective as well, combining for a 2.88 ERA and an opponents .298 BA/.338 OBP/.635 OPS over the same stretch.