The Tampa Bay Rays wrap up their nine-game home stand with an interleague weekend series against the San Francisco Giants, beginning Friday.
Tampa Bay is 4-2 on the homestead, and 7-3 over a 10-game span, as the Rays continue to creep toward .500. However, the ball club is suffering from injuries up and down the lineup.
Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. was placed on the 15-day DL with a left hip strain and is expected to miss at least two weeks. The Captain — to borrow from Orestes Destrade — Evan Longoria didn’t play Thursday because of a sore left forearm, although he is expected to return Friday or at some point in the series. Longoria, one of the hottest hitters in baseball, is hitting .371 with eight homers and 20 RBI over the past 15 games.
It’s always a challenge when you’re missing the key pieces that maybe you thought you were gonna have breaking out of camp, Rays manager Kevin Cash said following the series finale with Seattle on Thursday. It’s a challenge for every team in baseball to work through that throughout the course of the season.
With the absences of Brandon Guyer, Kevin Kiermaier and now Souza, someone is going to have to step up and provide what those three offer, if the Rays are going to continue playing as they have since the beginning of June. Enter Steve Pearce, Taylor Motter, Corey Dickerson, and to a lesser extent Mikie Mahtook.
Pearce is batting .346 this season, while Motter went was 3-4 in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Mariners. As for Dickerson, the OF/DH is starting to get toasty, slashing .250 BA/.324 OBP/.594 SLG/.918 OPS/.368 wOBA over the last 14 days, with three homers, five runs, and seven RBI. And Mahtook? He too appears to be putting together better at-bats over the same span, collecting a .241 BA/.281 OBP/.276 SLG/.557 OBP/.247 wOBA line, which is leaps and bounds better than his overall numbers.
The guys that we have here need to help us find ways to win ballgames, Cash said. And for the most part a lot of them are doing that and contributing.
The Giants look to stay hot on this, the precipice of a seven-game road trip. Buster Posey went 8-12 with three RBI over a three-game sweep of the Brewers, pushing the team’s win streak to five and improving to a season-best 15 games over .500. Still when you compare San Francisco’s numbers to those of the Rays, especially over the last 14 days, one thing becomes clear: Both teams are similar to one another, at least as it relates to offensive production. If Tampa Bay’s pitching staff can hold the Giants down, there is no reason the Rays couldn’t walk away with their fifth consecutive series win.
Kevin Cash will throw Chris Archer (4-8, 4.61 ERA), Matt Moore (3-4, 5.05 ERA), and Jake Odorizzi (3-3, 3.79 ERA) over the next three days. Bruce Bochy will counter with Jeff Samardzija (7-4, 3.36 ERA) and Jake Peavy (3-6, 5.83 ERA), with Sunday’s starter to be announced.
Rays series starters
Archer pitched well in his last start on Saturday, but was tagged with a loss against Houston even though the righty struck out eight and allowed just three runs on six hits, while walking none over 7-2/3 innings. Suffice it to say, it’s been a rough for Archer this season. He’s allowed fewer than three runs seven times and fanned at least seven on six occasions, yet he’s just 4-8 with a 4.61 ERA. On the other hand, Archer has relinquished at least six runs in three starts, and given up a homer in 10 of his last 13 appearances. To his credit, he’s become much more efficient of late, collecting at least six innings of work in five of his last six appearances, with three of those being of the quality variety. The North Carolina native owns a 2.33 ERA at Tropicana Field this season as opposed to a 6.75 mark on the road. The Giants’ Brandon Belt is 3-3 with a homer against Archer, who lost his only outing against the Giants back in 2013.
Moore tossed seven scoreless innings on Sunday against the Astros, allowing just two singles to Jose Altuve, while walking one and fanning 10. The 10 punchouts tied his season high, while it was the first time in six starts that he hadn’t allowed a homer. Despite the high pitch counts and shaky command that have plagued him this season, Moore was able to put together his fifth quality start.
Odorizzi was tossed from Tuesday’s game, after 5-2/3 innings, for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Jerry Meals. To be fair, Odorizzi had to contend with crap calls like this (below) all night.
At 116 pitches on the night, his second-highest total of the season, Odorizzi was likely done anyway. The righty allowed five runs on nine hits while striking out nine prior to his ejection.
Giants series starters
Samardzija goes to the mound for San Francisco with an unimpressive 2-8 record and 5.46 ERA in interleague play, having given up 20 earned runs in 22-2/3 innings over his last four interleague starts. The 31 year-old righty, who is winless in his last three starts and has not completed more than five innings in any of them, has struggled to locate his fastball. In spite of his 3.21 ERA in two career starts against the Rays, Samardzija has yet to record a decision against his upcoming opponent. So far this season Samardzija has relied upon a 93 mph cutter with good “rising action”, a 95 mph sinker, and a whiffy 95 mph four-seam fastball. He’s also mixed in an 86 mph, ground ball inducing slider; and an 86 mph splitter. Key matchups: Desmond Jennings (2-4, RBI), Evan Longoria (2-6, HR, 3 RBI), Logan Morrison (4-14, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 5 BB)
Peavy was excellent against the Dodgers on Sunday, allowing four hits and a walk across six scoreless innings. The 35 year-old veteran needed just 90 pitches (57 strikes) to make it through six frames, and aiding his own cause by fielding a couple of great plays. Be that as it may, Peavy has been wildly inconsistent on the whole this season, although he has tossed three quality starts in his last four tries, lowering his ERA to 5.83. Peavy may have to skip his start due to a sore neck.
(Peavy) is still pretty sore, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. He’s a little beat up, to be honest.
So far this season, the always entertaining Peavy has relied primarily upon a 90 mph, fly ball coaxing four-seam fastball; and an 86 mph cutter. He’s also mixed in an 80 mph curveball, which he uses to coax grounders; a 90 mph sinker; and an 84 mph circle changeup, with arm-side fade. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (1-2, 2 RBI), Desmond Jennings (3-12, 2B, HR, RBI), Logan Morrison (1-2, RBI)
— RHP Ryan Garton was optioned to Triple-A Durham. Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), the Rays will add either RHP Danny Farquhar or Steve Geltz.
— RHP Ryan Webb (strained right pec) felt good is his first rehab outing with the Charlotte Stone Crabs on Wednesday and will make another Saturday, this time with Durham, hoping to return during next week’s road trip.
— According to Topkin, RHP Alex Cobb (Tommy John surgery) advances Saturday to the first of three or four live batting practice sessions on a once-every-five days schedule, then moves on to rehab starts, with his targeted return looking more real.
We’re on track for late-July/early August as long as I feel good physically; it’s all about the bounce back after, Cobb said. I’m super happy, I don’t want to get too excited yet.
— Brandon Belt (ankle) sat out Wednesday’s contest, but could return to the lineup Friday while boasting an eight-game hit streak.
— Joe Panik is 12-28 during a seven-game hit streak, raising his average.