The Tampa Bay Rays are set to kick off a weekend series against Cleveland on Friday night at Progressive Field. The Rays are coming off a series split in Cobb County, where they plated 13 runs total over the span of the two day set. Cleveland has dropped five of the last seven games, although the team is still locked into to a playoff spot thanks to a very weak AL Central.
The Rays start the series eight-games back in the AL Wildcard race, and 3-1/2 behind Seattle, thanks to a 7-1 Mariners win over the Athletics on Thursday.
The Rays’ eight-game win streak finally came to a close in Cobb County, yet they quickly followed up with a win to split the brief Interleague series. The Rays pitching staff allowed 14 runs in the series — more than their entire eight-game winning streak (12) — yet the offense kept rocking, allowing for the win in the series finale.
Cleveland snapped out of its offensive malaise to plate 20 total runs over two games between August 26 – 27. Yet the team regressed by those standards and scored just eight runs total over the next two games.
Like the Red Sox two series ago, Cleveland hasn’t lit up scoreboard of late, performing to a slightly above average .317, a 97 wRC+ and a 0.8 wRAA over the last 14 days. Tampa Bay could be facing the team at the right time. A question begs though, how will the Rays offense fare against Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco?
Expect reinforcements when the calendar turns over to September on Saturday. Jake Faria, Chih Wei-Hu, Austin Pruitt, Jamie Schultz, Andrew Moore, Hoby Milner, Ryan Weber, Austin Meadows, and Christian Arroyo all could be promoted to the big league squad as of September 1 when the rosters expand.
Meadows, in particular, has raked in Durham since the deal that brought him over from Pittsburgh, slashing .347 BA/.400 OBP/.779 SLG/1.179 OPS across 49 games and 95 at-bats with the Bulls. The outfielder, most notably, is coming off a three-homer night when Durham beat Charlotte, 9-4, to clinch its second straight International League South Division title.
— Durham Bulls (@DurhamBulls) August 30, 2018
Kevin Cash will throw Tyler Glasnow (1-3, 4.18 ERA), Blake Snell (16-5, 2.05 ERA), and a pitcher to be named before the series finale. Terry Francona will counter with Corey Kluber (16-7, 2.91 ERA), Shane Bieber (8-2, 4.52 ERA), and Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.40 ERA).
Tyler Glasnow allowed three earned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out eight across five innings two Thursday’s ago. He did not factor into the decision. Glasnow was limited to a relatively short outing due to lapses in control, although he generated an impressive 14 whiffs on 96 total pitches (58 strikes, 60% strike rate, 24% SwStr). Even though he has surrendered six walks across his last two starts, spanning 11-2/3 innings, Glasnow has allowed 3.5 BB/9 across 23-2/3 total innings as a Ray.
Corey Kluber allowed five uncharacteristic earned runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out six across 5-1/3 innings to take the loss to the Royals on Saturday. This was a surprisingly poor effort from Kluber, as he allowed a sub par Royals offense to score in three separate innings. The perennial Cy Young Award contender has always been tough on Tampa Bay, performing to a 4-2 record and a 2.44 ERA in eight career starts. Beware of the slider! Key Matchups: CJ Cron (3-5, 2 2B, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (3-9, 2B, 3B, 3 BB), Jesus Sucre (1-3)
Blake Snell allowed one run on two hits and two walks while fanning eight across six innings against Bostonon Sunday. The southpaw tossed a gem against a tough Red Sox lineup, giving up just one run in the sixth inning as the Rays cruised to a 9-1 win. Since returning from the DL on August 4, Snell has gone 4-0 while allowing three runs and piling up 34 punch-outs across 26 innings (five starts). He owns a sparkling 2.05 ERA with a 3.17 K/BB through 145 frames this season.
Shane Bieber allowed four runs on six hits with no walks across 5-1/3 innings on Sunday against the Royals. He struck out seven. All the major damage against Bieber came via the long ball, including a pair of solo homers in the first and fourth innings before a two-run shot in the sixth. Luckily, he was spotted a large early lead and escaped with his eighth victory in spite of a lackluster overall line. Bieber has now posted an impressive 8.5 K/BB in 16 innings over his last three starts, although he also has a 5.63 ERA during that span, thanks in part to four homers allowed. This season he has relied primarily on his 93 mph four-seam fastball with some arm side run and an 84 mph 12/6 slider with two plane movement, while also mixing in an 80 mph curveball with sharp downward bite.
Carlos Carrasco struck out 11 across 7-2/3 shutout innings to earn the win Tuesday against the Twins. He allowed four hits and two walks along the way. Carrasco was at the top of his game, throwing 68% of his pitches for strikes as he recorded his second-highest strikeout total of the season. He also limited base runners to great effect and allowed just one runner to reach scoring position. The 31-year-old hurler is in the midst of one of his best stretches of the season, tossing at least seven scoreless innings in three of his last four starts. Like Kluber before him, Carrasco has been especially tough on the Rays over his career, going 4-3 with a 2.77 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts).