Riding a huge wave of momentum, born of an 8-2 stretch of play, the Tampa Bay Rays head to Detroit on Monday to start a three-game series against the Tigers. Both teams are similar, in that they got off to terrible starts, but have had a nice stretch to get back to respectability.
The Rays have been fantastic, going from 4-13 all the way to 12-14 following an eight-game winning streak that was snapped on Sunday. And while they looked to be in a dogfight for the basement position in the AL East along with Baltimore, their recent spate of play suggests that they might actually be able to live up to their preseason projections.
The Tigers offense has gone dormant in recent days, getting blanked 1-0 on Thursday and then again, 6-0 on Friday night. The loss dropped them to 11-15, although that is better than what most people expected.
Detroit was handed what could be a major blow on Sunday, when Miguel Cabrera was pulled from the game against the Orioles having been diagnosed with left biceps spasms. There have been no updates at this time regarding the severity of the injury.
Kevin Cash will lean on Jacob Faria (1-1, 6.33 ERA), Chris Archer (2-1, 6.61 ERA), and Blake Snell (4-1, 2.25 ERA) over the life of the series. Ron Gardenhire will counter with Jordan Zimmerman (1-0, 7.91 ERA), Matthew Boyd (0-2, 2.74 ERA), and Michael Fulmer (1-2, 2.76 ERA).
Faria goes for the Rays
Jacob Faria allowed four runs on four hits and three walks while striking out five over 4-1/3 innings against the Orioles on Wednesday. He did not factor into the decision.
Faria, essentially, matched Cobb’s mediocrity pitch-for-pitch, allowing a foreboding lead-off walk in the home half of the first, which was converted into a run on a two-out double into the left-field corner by Adam Jones. It certainly didn’t help that the ball got stuck in the padding at the bottom of the wall, forcing Denard Span to literally dig it out.
Faria continued to struggle in the second inning, when the Orioles took a two-run lead. Pedro Alvarez worked a one out walk before Anthony Santander and Jace Peterson went back-to-back with doubles, giving Baltimore a 3-1 advantage. That would be the last hit Faria would allow until Chance Sisco tee’d off on the hurler in the home half of the fifth, chasing him in favor of the bullpen.
Jordan Zimmeran looks like he’s on his last legs at just 31 years of age. He’s getting shelled just about every time out, and has been hit hard in all five appearances (four starts). Moreover, he’s given up at least three earned runs in each of his four starts, with a few being much worse.
Zimmerman has lasted just 18-2/3 innings over his four starts and allowed 17 earned runs, leading to a bloated 7.91 ERA. Batters are hitting .333 against him and his WHIP is 1.71. If the Rays are looking to set a tone early, Zimmerman is the perfect contender to do that against. Key Matchups: None to speak of.
Chris Archer allowed four earned runs on 11 hits while walking one and striking out seven over 5-1/3 innings on Thursday, allowing him to earn the win against the Orioles. Still, it was another rough outing for the Rays ace as he continued his undesirable streak of allowing a home run in each of his starts. On the positive side, he did fan seven and coaxed 19 whiffs, showing that he still has plenty of deception in his stuff. Both his BABIP and strand rate indicate that things should improve over time, although his current stat-line remains unsightly.
Matthew Boyd gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts over just 3-2/3 innings to take a loss Wednesday against the Pirates. Boyd finally showed weakness after opening the season with three fantastic outings. He was undone by a three-run homer off the bat of Jose Osuna in the second inning, and struggled with his control all day. Boyd threw just 12 first-pitch strikes to 21 hitters and walked three batters over the span of his outing, needing 94 pitches to get just 11 outs. This season he has relied primarily on his 90 mph four-seam fastball and an 80 mph slider, while also mixing in a 73 mph curveball with good glove side movement, a 78 mph changeup, and an 88 mph sinker. He has started just one game against the Rays since 2015, and is 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA after he allowed three runs on three hits and two walks over five innings. Key Matchups: Rob Refsnyder (2-3, 2B, RBI)
Blake Snell allowed just two runs on five hits and a walk over 7-1/3 innings of a win over the Red Sox on Friday. He struck out nine. It was the first time in the southpaw’s Major League career that he’s pitched into the eighth inning, as Snell threw 68 of 104 pitches for strikes, and generated 17 whiffs in his impressive performance. The 25-year-old has now produced four consecutive quality starts and sits at a 2.25 ERA on the season. His .286 BABIP suggests he could be due for a slight change of luck.
Michael Fulmer tossed six scoreless frames against the Pirates on Thursday, but did not factor into the decision. He scattered four hits and a walk while striking out nine. Fulmer has allowed two earned runs or fewer in four of his five starts this season and now has a 2.76 ERA, yet he has just one win to show for it, as the Tigers have not been providing him much run support. This season Fulmer has relied upon his 95 mph sinker and an 86 mph slider, while also mixing in an 88 mph changeup, a 96 mph four seam fastball, and an 86 mph curveball. He is 2-2 with a 2.36 ERA in four starts against the Rays (26-2/3 innings), having allowed seven total runs on 18 hits including two homers. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (2-8, RBI), Wilson Ramos (1-1, 2B, BB), Daniel Robertson (2-3, 2 RBI), Mallex Smith (1-3)
— Lots of big crowds at Fenway for the weekend series against the Red Sox. Totally no empty seats or sections at all!