The good news: Tampa Bay has won nine of its last 15 with the pitching staff relinquishing only 2.6 runs, on average, per game. The bad: They’ve dropped four out of their last five, averaging only 2.6 runs per game in that stretch. Thursday’s game followed a familiar pattern; the pitchers put together a good enough start, yet the offense couldn’t muster anything. Rather, they were able to get eight runners on — but moving them over or driving them in? Not so much. You’ve got to love streakiness — one moment you’re feeling the highest of highs, and the next you feel like you’ve gotten punched in the stomach.
Welcome to Consternation Station: A place where unfounded rumors fly. Reinforcements are rumored to be on the way, and none too soon — Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, and (to a large extent) Evan Longoria haven’t been nearly as dependable as they could, or should. When it matters — that is, when runners are in scoring position — Longo has posted a .252 BA/.372 OBP/.383 SLG/.755 OPS slash line, but that’s at least something. Wil Myer has been absolutely atrocious in the month of August, hitting .207 BA/.320 OBP/.305 SLG/.624 OPS while striking out 27.8% of the time. Furthermore, he’s hitless in his last 19 at-bats and is 5-for-43 (.116) over his last 12 games, with no extra-base hits. Simply put, the league has adjusted to Myers, yet he hasn’t made the proper adjustments on his end. And Jennings? He’s is mired in a 2-for-24 slump, while Evan Longoria and Wil Myers have gone hitless in their last 36 at-bats combined.
Per Cork Gaines at Rays Index, Tampa Bay could be calling up Tim Beckham as early as Sunday, asserting, “Yunel Escobar is the only true shortstop on the team. While both Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez can play shortstop, neither is ideal. When Zobrist plays shortstop, all that does is create a hole someplace else. And Rodriguez should only be in the game if a lefty is on the mound. Beckham would give Maddon another true shortstop as well as the added flexibility of also being able to play second base. In addition, while Beckham does hit lefties better than righties, his OBP is almost evenly split (.344 vs LHP, .345 vs RHP).” I’m not certain how credible his sources are, but if what the asserts is true, this move: A. Represents a make or break moment for the Rays 2008 number one draft pick, and B. Could bolster a streaky offense. But that’s neither here or now.
The Rays will slunk into Oakland for a three game series against the closest contender in the wildcard race, the Athletics. From a statistical point of view, both Tampa Bay and Oakland have all but clinched a postseason berth. However, with the Orioles and Indians nipping at the heels, some distance between the Rays and A’s would be nice.
Tampa Bay swept Oakland back in April in a three game series at the Trop, though they’re 24-23 in the years the Rays have been relevant, extending back to 2008. Similar to the Rays, the Athletics have cooled significantly following the All-Star Break — having gone 19-18 (.514 WP) with a paltry 10-run run differential. And though the Rays have a higher WP since the break, a negative run differential of six runs doesn’t bode too well for a team that was fourth in the league in runs scored in June and July. Then again, the A’s are 12-13 in the month of August with two games remaining. They need to win their next two games to keep their streak of consecutive months with a winning record alive, which dates back to last June.
Don’t expect much run support from either team Friday, as David Price and Jarrod Parker are slated to face one another in the first game of the series. Price is 7-1 with a 1.97 ERA and 62 strikeouts in his past 11 starts. Likewise, Parker has been very good, going 8-0 with a 2.48 ERA and .202 opponents’ average over his last 16 outings. It should be noted that three of the six starters below (Hernandez, Gray, and Griffin) are, as of now, tentative.
Jarrod Parker: Per Rotowire, “Parker was fantastic Saturday against the Orioles, earning the win while allowing only one run in eight innings.” A handful of Rays have had success against the A’s most consistent pitcher, and the team has put together a respectable .250 BA/.328 OBP/.481 SLG/.808 OPS slash line against Parker, with five extra base hits — three homers, a triple, and a double. It should be noted the sample size against the 24 year-old righty is incredibly small — a mere 52 at-bats. Key match-ups: Desmond Jennings (2-7, 3 BB), Kelly Johnson (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (2-6), Jose Molina (3-9, 2B), Ben Zobrist (3-9, 3B, HR, RBI).
Sonny Gray: Per Rotowire, “Gray was clobbered Sunday to the tune of six runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out three in 3.1 innings, as the Athletics lost at Baltimore.” According to Scoutingbook.com, presumed starter Sonny Gray, ” Is a small, stocky pitcher with big stuff. His 95mph fastball has great natural movement, and he’s already complementing it with a quality curve. As can be said of 99% of all amateurs (and new professionals), though, his changeup isn’t really all there yet, and that’ll be what matters most to his future. Until now, his stuff has been good enough to allow him to succeed even when pitching up in the zone.”
A.J. Griffin: Griffin is a 25 year-old RHP who works with an 88-92 MPH fastball, mixing in a curveball, slider, and changeup. The changeup is arguably his best secondary offering, thought he isn’t afraid to use his breaking pitches, and he’s aggressive with the fastball. A fly ball pitcher, he can get touched for home runs if he makes a mistake up in the strike zone, but his command is generally very solid. This shows up in his excellent K/BB ratios, and despite his average velocity, his strikeout rates are generally good, which testifies to the quality of secondary pitches.