The Tampa Bay Rays take to the show on the road to cap the season; first stop Chicago, where they’ll face the White Sox over the next four days. If they can win just one game over the final seven days, they will earn Kevin Cash a better record in his second full year as manager, than Joe Maddon in his sophomore season.
Tampa Bay was swept in three games over the weekend by the Boston Red Sox, losing by a combined four runs to finish their home schedule. The Rays, who struck out 23 times in the home finale, held the Red Sox to 11 total runs, yet plated just seven for an average of 2.33 runs per game.
The White Sox knocked off the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians over the last two contests — capped by a 3-0 shutout on Sunday.
Cash will lean on Drew Smyly (7-11, 4.86 ERA), Alex Cobb (1-1, 6.16 ERA), Blake Snell (6-8, 3.65 ERA), and Chris Archer (8-19, 4.02 ERA) over the next four days. Robin Ventura will counter with James Shields (5-18, 5.98 ERA), Chris Sale (16-9, 3.19 ERA), Miguel González (4-8, 3.98 ERA), and José Quintana (13-11, 3.21 ERA).
Rays Series Starters
Smyly hurled six innings of one run ball on Tuesday, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out three. The lefty turned in an 87 pitch outing, and could have worked his way through the seventh. Instead, the Rays skipper turned the game over to Brad Boxberger, who razed the potential win into a loss for the team. Still, Tuesday’s performance earned the southpaw his first quality start in his last four outings, lowing his ERA to 4.86 — its lowest mark since August 26.
Cobb was roughed up Wednesday, lasting just 1-1/3 innings and giving up seven runs on nine hits and a walk. The righty had been pitching well in his return from Tommy John surgery, maintaining a 3.06 ERA over three starts before Wednesday. The outing more than doubled Cobb’s ERA to an unsightly 6.16.
Snell shut down the Yankees over five frames on Thursday, working around five hits and three walks while fanning six. The outing was representative of Snell’s season — the lefty has allowed a lot of baserunners, but has effectively limited the damage, allowing him to post a 3.65 ERA. His 94 strikeouts in 86-1/3 innings speak to his ace potential, however, he needs to cut down on his walks and become more efficient in order to sustain this success over the long haul.
Archer relinquished a pair of earned runs on seven hits and two walks over six innings on Friday, striking out seven. The Rays ace once again posted a quality start, yet collected another tally in the loss column. Archer notched 14 whiffs and collected 20-of-27 first-pitch strikes, but he was doomed by a lack of run support. He’s lowered his ERA by 64 points (4.66 ERA to 4.02 ERA) since the All-Star Break.
White Sox Series Starters
Shields allowed seven runs (six earned) on nine hits and three walks while fanning four over 5-1/3 innings on Tuesday. The former Ray turned in a dud against the Phillies, one of the worst offenses in baseball. Still Shields is 2-0 with a 2.09 ERA in two starts against his former team. Key matchups: Kevin Kiermaier (1-2, 2B), Brad Miller (3-7, HR, RBI, BB), Alexei Ramirez (23-68, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB)
Sale suffered an embarrassing loss against the Phillies on Wednesday, allowing six runs on seven hits while striking out five over four innings. Wednesday marked the Southpaw’s second-shortest outing, and most humiliating performance, of 2016. Sale pitched at least eight innings in each of his previous five starts, owning a 1.50 ERA while striking out 50 over 42 innings. The southpaw is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts against the Rays. Key matchup: Mikie Mahtook (HR, RBI)
Gonzalez allowed three runs on six hits while fanning two over seven innings on Saturday. The 32-year-old journeyman has now thrown nine consecutive quality (extending back to July 1), not including a mid-August outing in which he left after the first inning due to a groin injury. His second-half ERA now is 2.96, thanks to improved command and control resulting in a decreased walk rate from (9.0% to 4.2%). Key matchups: Curt Casali (1-3, HR, RBI), Logan Forsythe (3-12, 2B, BB), Alexei Ramirez (2-7, 2B, BB)
Quintana hurled six innings of one run ball on Saturday, walking three and striking out two. The southpaw settled in for his second win against Cleveland in the past 11 days, as he pitched out of a pair of early jams — relinquishing just one run — while throwing an inefficient 53 pitches, and loading the bases twice. Quintana is on track to post his lowest ERA in his career, as it currently sits at 3.21 over 202 total innings of work. He allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits in a loss to the Rays on April 17th. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (5-8, 3 2B, HR, 5 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (3-8, 2B), Evan Longoria (4-11)
— Evan Longoria has 169 hits on the season, needing just one more to set a career high. He also is five away from his first 100-RBI season since 2010.
— The Rays are 7-2 against the White Sox since the start of the 2015 season after taking two of three at home in April.
— Kevin Kiermaier suffered a bruised left wrist when he was hit by a pitch on Sunday. He is listed as day-to-day.
— Todd Frazier needs one homer and four RBI to become the sixth Chicago player to put up a 40-homer/100-RBI season. He is 14-34 with three homes and six RBI during a nine-game hitting streak.