After a 2-1 loss to the reigning World Series champions on Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays will look to rebound and split the short two-game set, and the season series, with the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have won seven straight, while the Rays have won just one game in each of the last three series. They would need to go 8-3 over the final 11 games to finish at .500, while their postseason hopes are all but nonexistent at this point.
Optimism will make you suffer fools gladly.
I’m holding out for you to do the right thing,
— American Steel
In spite of the monumental odds against them, Rays’ players, like Blake Snell and Steven Souza Jr., remain optimistic that they can salvage the season. Optimism is an intoxicating drug.
I feel all of us still think there’s a shot, said Snell. We all want to do it. We’re all in this together. We always felt there was a shot from the start and all the way to the end.
Souza was a bit more realistic:
We’re running out of time.
Of course Tampa Bay’s playoffs chances have all but evaporated — they start the day five games out of the final Wilcard spot with just 12 games left to play. It certainly doesn’t help that the offense has been all but nonexistent in three of the last four games.
What also doesn’t help, which Chris Archer pointed out last night, is the glaring lack of support from the Rays’ loyal fanbase.
Having 25,000 Cub fans here, wasn’t very fun either.
It’s weird, I didn’t know we had that many mid-western people in Tampa, but I guess we do. It’s just weird for their players to come out and get announced and just get so much love.
It felt like we were at Citi Field, playing the Yankees. Honestly, it felt very similar to that…and I’m not being critical it was just crazy how much royal blue there was out there.
When Wilson Contreras ran out to warm up the pitcher…like he got a standing o.
I’ve been here for however long, I’ve seen some really, really good players come and I’ve never seen anybody get as much love when they go to warm up then some of their players did.
It was definitely more of a road environment as opposed to a home environment tonight.
Granted there are myriad reasons why Rays’ fans skipped out of Tuesday night’s ball game. Although in all fairness, if that was just the second largest crowd of the season, that’s pretty sad. It is clearly evident that there is stadium saga induced PTSD which has affected the attendance all season long. Pair that with an ownership that apparently does not possess the want or the desire to stop being cheap, and start spending money to compete.
The effect on the players has become palpable, and now they — by way of the more vocal players, like Chris Archer — are letting us know how the lack of fans impacts the collective psyche of the team. If we fans want to see a diminished presence from the visiting team’s fan base, then it is up to all of us to purchase those tickets and plant our bottoms into those seats first and foremost.
The New What Next
Blake Snell (3-6, 4.25 ERA, 4.36 FIP) will start for the Rays, pitching opposite of Jon Lester (11-7, 4.30 ERA, 4.05 FIP).
Snell allowed just a run on two hits against the Yankees on Tuesday, yet he walked away with a no decision. The southpaw threw 51/83 pitches for strikes, although he didn’t stick around long enough to benefit from Adeiny Hechavarria’s game-winning solo homer in the bottom of the eighth inning. He now is 3-1 with a 3.75 ERA in 11 post-All-Star Game starts, and has given up two runs or fewer in four of his last five outings — performing to a 2.73 ERA with a 28/8 K/BB over that 29-2/3 inning stretch. Snell faced the Cubs on July 5 but took a no-decision after tossing five scoreless frames.
Lester is no stranger to beginning games slowly. He threw 78 pitches over the first three innings against the Mets in his last start, yet needed just 36 over the final three innings. In spite of that, he’s won each of his last two outing, allowing just three runs over 12 total innings of work. Lester is 13-10 with a 4.22 ERA in 29 games against the Rays, including a five inning loss on July 4 when he allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits including a homer. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (7-17, 2B, BB), Danny Espinosa (2-3, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB, Adeiny Hechavarria (3-10, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Evan Longoria (14-58, 3 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 7 BB), Brad Miller (1-3), Steven Souza Jr. (2-3, 2B, 2 RBI)
Rays 9/20/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr. RF
— The Rays added two players to the roster this afternoon. INF Daniel Robertson will rejoin the Rays, as will RHP Chih-Wei Hu. Additionally, Xavier Cedeno will be activated from the 60-day DL, after rehabbing with Durham. A corresponding move will need to be made to make room for Cedeno.