The Tampa Bay Rays ready themselves for the final leg of the Knutson Classic on Friday, when they welcome the Minnesota Twins into Tropicana Field for a three-game series.
Both teams are coming of a decent stretch of baseball. The Rays split their four-game series with the Kansas City Royals, while the Minnesota Twins tagged Cleveland with 37 runs over the course of their four-game set. They are each 6-4 over a 10-game stretch, although Minnesota has won six of their last eight.
The Twins trail the Rays by a 1-1/2 games in their effort to escape the American League basemen, and they are 20-33 on the road this season. However, they have not lost a road series since June 28-30 in Chicago. Tampa Bay leads 71-68 all-time in the Knutson Challenge, including 35-30 at the Trop, yet the Twins took the cup last season for the first time since 2006. Minnesota has also won the series in St. Pete each of the past two seasons. Working in their favor though, the Rays took three of four from the Twins in June at Target Field.
Kevin Cash will throw Blake Snell (3-4, 3.08 ERA), Chris Archer (5-15, 4.38 ERA), and Matt Andriese (6-2, 2.72 ERA) over the next three days. Paul Molitor will counter with Ervin Santana (4-9, 3.66 ERA), José Berrios (2-1, 8.57 ERA), and Kyle Gibson (3-6, 4.94 ERA).
Rays Series Starters
Snell struck out nine Yankees over 5-1/3 innings Sunday, allowing just two runs on five hits and three walks in the 5-3 win. The southpaw lasted long enough to earn the victory, yet it was the first time in four starts that Snell didn’t work through the sixth inning. Snell capped an impressive month of July, posting a 2.76 ERA/1.19 WHIP/2.36 K:BB line over 29-1/3 innings and five starts.
Archer gave up three runs on six hits and a walk over 7-1/3 innings in a loss Monday to the Royals. He struck out six. Archer entered the start with the 11th-worst run support in the AL, which continued against Danny Duffy, who one-hit the Rays over eight innings. Be that as it may, Archer now has thrown three straight quality starts, collecting an excellent 8.33 K/BB over 20-1/3 innings, and allowing him to lower his ERA to 4.38 — its lowest mark since May 17.
Andriese threw four innings of one run ball in his first start since June 25, allowing three hits while striking out three Royals. The righty took Matt Moore’s spot in the rotation, and was limited to 58 pitches in his return to front five. In nine starts this season, Andriese is 6-2 with a 2.72 ERA, notching 57 strikeouts over 76 innings of work. The righty is more than capable of handling himself in the starting rotation — he threw a shutout against the Athletics back on May 14, and collected a pair of seven-inning starts this season while surrendering just one earned run.
Twins Series Starters
Santana allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks over six innings in a win against the White Sox on Sunday. He fanned five. The righty left the game with a two-run lead that the bullpen was able to protect, leading to his fourth victory overall. He’s now held opponents to two or fewer earned runs in seven of his last eight starts, which has allowed him to lower his ERA to 3.66. The Rays brutalized Santana for five runs on six hits (including three homers) over six innings on June 4th. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (2-6, 2 2B), Logan Forsythe (1-2), Nick Franklin (2-4, 2B, RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2, RBI), Evan Longoria (8-20, 3 HR, 4 RBI, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-3, HR, 3 RBI, BB)
Berrios allowed three runs on four hits over six innings of a win Monday over Cleveland. He struck out five. The righty failed to record a quality start in his first four starts earlier this season, but he managed to do it against one of the American League’s best ball clubs in his return to the rotation. Berrios impressively didn’t walk a batter; juxtapose that with his first four career starts, when he walked 12 batters in just 15 innings. This season he’s relied primarily on a whiffy 95 mph four-seam fastball, and an 82 mph curveball with a lot of run. He’s also mixed in a firm 86 mph changeup with arm-side fade, and a 94 mph sinker that induces a lot of fly balls.
Gibson was hammered over 4-2/3 innings on Tuesday, allowing six runs on ten hits and one walk while striking out only two Indians. He held Cleveland scoreless through the front four innings before falling apart in the fifth. That particular game marked Gibson’s shortest outing since April 22, which hiked his ERA up to 4.94 on the season; this after the righty posted a 3.69 ERA over five starts in his best month of the season. Gibson has not faced Tampa Bay this season, although he is 0-4 with an 8.85 ERA in four starts against the Rays. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (2-3, 2B), Nick Franklin (2-5, HR, 3 RBI), Desmond Jennings (3-7), Kevin Kiermaier (3-5, 2B, BB), Evan Longoria (4-10, 2B, 4 RBI, BB), Brad Miller (5-11, 2 2B, RBI)
— Brian Dozier has five homers in his past five games.
— Alex Colome has notched 26 saves in 27 opportunities.