The Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox are set to start a three-game series at Tropicana Field, on Friday night. Tampa Bay completed a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, while the South Siders salvaged the series finale against the Kansas City Royals.
The Rays bounced back from a wretched series against the Orioles, returning home where they took three in-a-row from the Angels. They currently have the best home record in baseball since June 11, having lost just four games (and winning 20) under the big top. Tampa Bay enters the series 7-1/2 games out of the second spot in the AL Wildcard race, behind the Athletics and a slumping Mariners squad, having picked up 2-1/2 games since Tuesday.
The White Sox, frankly, are not a good team, having gone 3-7 in their last 10-games, and 5-8 since the All-Star Break.
Still Chicago, led by Jose Abreu, has some pop when it isn’t striking out or stranding runners on base. It will be incumbent upon the Rays pitching staff to keep the ChiSox in the park.
Doug Waechter (Fox Sports Sun) brought up a good point at the end of the telecast on Thursday: Tampa Bay was able to sweep a good Angels’ team, and there’s no reason the Rays cannot take two of three — in the very least least — from one of the worst teams in baseball. The Rays should be able to use the opposing hurlers for batting practice; Chocago’s pitching staff has performed to a 5.06 ERA overall, and it reached a further low over the past week, having given up 10 runs or more in four of the last eight games. Adding it all up, the combined team ERA has ballooned to 7.14 over the last 10 games.
If the Rays have postseason aspirations — remember, they are in the race until they are not — they must stay competitive with the Mariners and Athletics this weekend, which means they must win games.
We’re competitors and we want to win games, DH/1B C.J. Cron said. Until the last game of the season’s over with, that’s what we’re going to try to do. If we put together enough wins to creep us back in it, we’ll take that as well. So that’s our job right now.
After starting the season 1-8, Tampa Bay took two-of-three from the South Siders back in April.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will lean on Ryne Stanek (1-3, 2.36 ERA) — who will be followed by Yonny Chirinos (0-3, 4.21 ERA) — Blake Snell (12-5, 2.27 ERA), and a pitcher to be named before the series finale on Sunday. Rick Renteria will counter with Lucas Giolito (7-8, 6.26 ERA), Carlos Rodón (3-3, 3.24 ERA), and former Ray James Shields (4-12, 4.52 ERA).
Ryne Stanek worked around a leadoff and a two-out walk in a scoreless inning of work as the opener on Tuesday against the Angels. He struck out one. Stanek threw 12 of 18 pitches for strikes (67% strike rate) but was limited to one inning this time out, making way for Ryan Yarbrough. The right-hander has posted a strong 2.38 ERA and 1.06 WHIP this season.
Yonny Chirinos gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks over three innings against Baltimore on Sunday. He struck out three. Three of the runs he allowed came in the first inning, and he was ultimately pulled down by two after tossing 57 pitches (31 strikes, 54% strike rate) in his seventh start of the season. He’s allowed three runs in each of his last three appearances (11-2/3 innings).
Lucas Giolito surrendered five runs on nine hits and a walk over 4-1/3 innings on Saturday against the Jays. He struck out out three. It was a lackluster outing from Giolito, who needed 94 pitches (62 strikes, 66% strike rate) to record 13 outs. This season he has relied primarily on his 93 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in an 84 mph 12-6 slider, a 92 mph sinker, an 82 mph changeup with slight cut action, and a 79 mph curveball with sharp downward bite.
Blake Snell will return from the 10-day DL and take the hill against the White Sox. Snell threw a bullpen session Wednesday, which appeared to be his final obstacle before coming off the shelf. Across 20 starts (119 IP) this season, he’s performed to a 2.27 ERA/3.43 FIP and 1.07 WHIP with a 10.1 K/9, and a 2.85 K/BB. Snell was placed on the 10-day DL with left shoulder fatigue on July 23.
Carlos Rodón fired 7-2/3 innings on Sunday, yielding two runs on five hits and a walk. He struck out six and allowed a home run. Another strong start helped Rodón lower his season ERA from 4.55 to 3.24 in July. The 25 year-old southpaw held the Blue Jays in check for most of the afternoon. He also improved to a 2.33 K/BB after Sunday’s contest. Rodón has allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his nine starts this season. He has relied primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball and a whiffy 86 mph slider with short glove-side cut, while also mixing in a 94 mph sinker and a firm 85 mph changeup with natural sink. The left-hander is 0-0 with a 5.19 ERA in two career starts against the Rays
We will update this piece when the Rays name a starter in the series finale.
James Shields allowed four runs on five hits across seven innings on Tuesday. He struck out eight and walked three. Shields tossed four scoreless innings before giving up a couple two-run homers, one in the fifth inning and the other in the seventh. Shields now has the second-most losses in the big league (trailing another former Ray Alex Cobb, who has 14), yet his 1.29 WHIP and .237 batting average against are both respectable figures. The right-hander has been susceptible to the long ball — giving up 20 on the season — while sporting a run-of-the-mill 2 K/BB over 144 innings. Still, the workhorse is 3-0 with a pristine 1.37 ERA in four career starts against his former team. Key Matchups: Carlos Gomez (5-11, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-4, BB), Tommy Pham (1-3, HR, RBI)
— Party like it’s 2008! Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) detailed the Rays 2008 team reunion on Saturday:
Team MVP Jason Bartlett, Akinori Iwamura, Scott Kazmir, James Shields, B.J. Upton headline a group of 20 players from the 2008 team at the Trop this weekend for a 10-year celebration. Alums will greet fans at Gate 1 Friday night (5:10 opening) and Saturday (4:10) and sign autographs at the 20th anniversary exhibit. Saturday is the main event, with pregame introductions, Iwamura throwing the first pitch to Bartlett, and all fans getting an Iwamura bobblehead with the radio call of the final out of that year’s ALCS.