The Tampa Bay Rays departed from the Sunshine City on Thursday afternoon, en route to the Gateway City, where they are set to begin a three-game Interleague Series against another playoff hopeful, the St. Louis Cardinals. Tampa Bay won the rubber match of their three-game series against the Blue Jays, 2-0, while St. Louis dropped the rubber game of their three-game set against the Padres, 4-3.
The Rays managed to pick up a series win against the Blue Jays allowing them to enter this set with a little momentum. After dropping eight of nine, and scoring just 20 runs over that stretch, Tampa Bay has won three of four and plated 17 runs along the way. The offense is again showing signs of life which is important for a team with postseason aspirations, and heading into the final stretch of the season. They went into Thursday night’s action three games behind the Twins for the second Wildcard spot in the AL.
The Cardinals followed a stretch of eight consecutive wins by dropping seven of their last 10. Following their loss to the Padres, St. Louis enters Friday’s action five games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, and an equal margin behind the Colorado Rockies for the second NL Wildcard.
Suffice it to say, this series is critical to both clubs, although the Rays cannot even entertain any playoff ideas until they get back to .500, so…
Tampa Bay took three of the four meetings when the teams last met in 2014, including both games in St. Louis July 22-23, 2014.
Over the next three days Kevin Cash will lean on Jake Odorizzi (6-7, 4.74 ERA, 5.89 FIP), Blake Snell (2-6, 4.42 ERA, 4.59 FIP), and Chris Archer (9-7, 3.76 ERA, 3.17 FIP). Mike Matheny will counter with Michael Wacha (9-6, 4.08 ERA, 3.71 FIP), a player to be named before Saturday’s contest, and Lance Lynn (10-6, 3.17 ERA, 4.72 FIP).
Odorizzi was pretty bad against the Mariners on Saturday, allowing seven runs over just 3-2/3 innings. He has lost all three of his outings since returning from the 10-day DL, although he only relinquished three total runs in his previous two starts. Still, he is 3-5 with a 6.03 ERA in his last 12 starts, and has seen his overall ERA blossom from 4.47 to 4.74.
Wacha has struggled to pitch deeply into games this month, with just one of his four August outings pushing into the sixth inning. In his last start, Wacha dished up a pair of two-run homers in a five-run second inning, sinking any hopes of a Cardinals’ road victory. The right-hander has been knocked around to the tune of nine combined runs on 15 hits over his last two starts, both losses. Wacha is 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in one start against the Rays (five innings of work). This season he has relied primarily upon a 95mph four-seam fastball, with less natural movement than typical and has some added backspin, while also mixing in a firm 88mph circle changeup, a 91mph real worm killer cutter, and a 77mph 12-6 curveball with sharp downward bite. Key Matchups: Lucas Duda (1-3, Adeiny Hechavarria (1-3, BB), Brad Miller (1-2), Wilson Ramos (1-4, 2 RBI)
Snell is coming off his best start of the season after picking up the win on Sunday. The southpaw allowed a single in the second and a single in the seventh en route to seven shutout innings and his second win of the season. Snell’s 4.42 ERA and 1.44 WHIP still leave a lot to be desired, however, he appears to be figuring things out, and could take his quality stuff to another level to close out the season.
Archer dominated Toronto on Tuesday, limiting the Jays to one earned run on four hits and a walk, while fanning 10 in six innings of work. Archer has struck out 61 and walked just eight in his last seven starts, and has whiffed 10 in two consecutive starts (both against Toronto) — accumulating double-digit strikeouts nine times this season.
Lynn saw his string of eight consecutive quality starts come to an end in his last turn, although he has been the Cardinals’ most consistent starter this season. Since the beginning of July, Lynn he has averaged six innings a start and posted a 2.08 ERA. The 30 year-old right-hander is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two-games (one start) against the Rays. This season Lynn has relied primarily upon a four-pitch mix: a whiffy 93mph four-seam fastball and a 92 mph sinker, while also mixing in an 88 mph fly ball inducing cutter, and a 79mph curveball with little depth and 12-6 movement. Key Matchups: Corey Dickerson (2-5, BB), Adeiny Hechavarria (4-8, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (1-4, 2B, RBI)
— The Rays are looking forward to Major League Baseball’s inaugural Players Weekend, when they (along with all of the other ball clubs) get to wear uniforms — including the player’s nicknames on the back of the jerseys, and a blank patch sewn on the sleeve that allows the player to write the name(s) of person, teammate, coach, family member or organization that was important his development — that have been designed for the event.
There’s people who contribute to our lives, us getting here. I think it’s cool. It lets the fans see another side of the players. Also a little freedom picking what we want on the back of our jerseys, Corey Dickerson said.
Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) provided a list of the players nicknames, and you can see the special jerseys below.
Jose Alvarado – LA FLECHA
Matt Andriese – DREEZY
Chris Archer – FLACO FUERTE
Peter Bourjos – NEEDLER
Xavier Cedeno – X
Steve Cishek – SPEEDPASS
Alex Colome – THE HORSE
Brad Boxberger – BOX
Lucas Duda – DUDE
Matt DUffy – DUFFMAN
Nathan Eovaldi – EVO
Adeiny Hechavarria – LA PANTERA
Chih-Wei Hu – WHO?
Tommy Hunter – TOMMY TWO TOWEL
Dan Jennings – DJ
Kevin Kiermaier – OUTLAW
Adam Kolarek – AK
Evan Longoria – LONGO
Brad Miller – RAT
Logan Morrison – LOMO
Jake Odorizzi – ODO
Trevor Plouffe – SPECIAL T
Wilson Ramos – BUFFALO
Daniel Robertson – D-ROB
Serio Romo – EL MECHON
Blake Snell – ZILLA
Steven Souza Jr. – SOUZBOT
Jesus Sucre – SOOKY