After winning four out of five games in Baltimore in the penultimate road series of the regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays took the train north to New York where they will take on the Mets in a three-game series, starting Monday night. The Rays are attempting to secure an AL East division title which could happen in this series. The Mets, who dropped two of three to Atlanta, are looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Tampa Bay enters play 16 games over .500, in first place in the division over the Yankees by 3-1/2 games, and with a magic number of three to clinch an AL East title with six games left to play.
As I mentioned in the previous series preview, the Rays haven’t been what one would call an offensive juggernaut over the last six series, although things are continuing to trend upward for the team … even if that rate of change is at a glacial pace. They are starting to get “lucky” again — as it relates to BABIP — when they put the ball in play, while their OBP (.320, up from .317) and SLG (.425, up from .413) improved from the series against Washington to the most recent one. They are still striking out at an alarming clip, although they have been able to reduce their K% from 30.5% to an almost unperceivable 29.9%.
Meanwhile, the Mets are, by in large, outperforming their season numbers, especially when you look at their wRC+ — New York is performing at an 18% greater clip than their season average (143 wRC+ vs 125 wRC+). Even so, the Mets are 5-5 over their last 10 games, and 9-11 over their last 20. They are going to need a remarkable finish to qualify for the playoffs. The Mets are 2-1/2 games back of the eighth seed with only seven games remaining. what’s more, they are 12-15 are at Citi Field this season.
This is the first meeting between the two since 2018 when the Rays took two-of-three and outscored the Mets 13-5.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will roll out Josh Fleming (3-0, 3.47 ERA) — who will pitch behind opener Pete Fairbanks (5-3, 2.74 ERA) — Blake Snell (4-1, 3.05 ERA), and Tyler Glasnow (4-1, 4.21 ERA). Luis Rojas will counter with Jacob deGrom (4-1, 2.09 ERA), Seth Lugo (2-3, 4.34 ERA), and Steven Matz (0-5, 9.79 ERA).
Pete Fairbanks allowed two hits and recorded two strikeouts over one scoreless inning of work. The right-hander labored through a 27-pitch frame, but ultimately, he did enough to come through unscathed and became the pitcher of record when the Rays rallied for four runs in the home half of the inning.
Josh Fleming allowed one hit and one walk over 3-2/3 scoreless innings on Wednesday against the Nationals. He struck out two. The southpaw was set to follow opener Pete Fairbanks, but he ended up entering as the third pitcher of the day. Still, it was a strong rebound outing for Fleming, who had given up seven runs in his previous two turns. He now maintains a 3.47 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 3.6 K/BB through 23-1/3 innings on the season.
Jacob deGrom exited his last start against the Phillies with a right hamstring spasm. The 32-year-old was removed after allowing three runs over two innings due to the injury. The severity of the injury remains unclear. deGrom relies primarily on a whiffy 99 mph four-seam fastball with slightly less natural movement than typical and a hard 93 mph worm-killer slider, while also mixing in a whiffy 91 mph changeup that dives down out of the zone. This season, the Mets have lost just two games he has started, so it likely will be a tough slog for the Rays. deGrom is 0-0 with a 1.88 ERA in two starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Kevin Kiermaier (2-6, 2B), Hunter Renfroe (3-9, 2B)
Blake Snell allowed one run on two hits and a walk over 5-1/3 innings against the Orioles on Thursday. He struck out four. Snell was in line for his fifth win of the season in an eventual 3-1 victory, but after he exited the game with a runner on second and one out, Diego Castillo allowed the inherited runner to score. Snell tossed 73 pitches (47 strikes, 64% strike rate) in the strong outing, and carries a 3.05 ERA and a 3.6 K/BB through 44-1/3 innings into his final start of the regular season, on Tuesday. Snell is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one career start (7-1/3 IP) against the Mets.
Seth Lugo allowed six runs on eight hits and no walks across 1-2/3 innings against the Phillies on Thursday. He struck out three. Lugo entered the game having posted a 2.65 ERA over 17 innings since joining the starting rotation on August 25, although he was unable to tame Philadelphia’s bats. The right-hander surrendered four home runs in the brutal outing, two of which came against Bryce Harper. In only 1-2/3 innings of work, Lugo yielded a season-worst eight hits and saw his season ERA balloon to 4.34. He relies primarily on a whiffy 94 mph four-seam fastball and a 94 mph sinker with slight arm-side run and slightly above average velocity, while also mixing in a 79 mph curveball with slight glove-side movement, an 88 mph slider with less than expected depth, and an extremely hard ground ball inducing 88 mph changeup. He has never faced the Rays. Key Matchup: Manuel Margot (5-6, 2B)
Tyler Glasnow got the start Friday against former Ray Alex Cobb and battled, allowing one run on four hits (one home run) and two walks while fanning 10 across five innings on 95 pitches (64 strikes, 67% strike rate, 20% SwStr%) en route to his fourth win of the season.
Glasnow, however, really had to work for his outs, using 50 pitches over the first two frames. The right-hander had a runner at second with one out in the first inning, then really did some heavy lifting in the second. He loaded the bases on a walk sandwiched around a pair of singles. However, Glasnow struck out Bryan Holaday and Andrew Velazquez, then got Cedric Mullins to fly to left, keeping Baltimore off the board.
Getting out of the second inning was a big step from me. Good growth moment, like Kyle would say. I felt, like, calm … nothing sped up.— Tyler Glasnow
The right-hander’s only mistake of the night came in the bottom of the fourth when he allowed an Austin Hays solo shot to begin the frame. Yet, Glasnow struck out the side afterward (as well as in the first) and surrendered nothing else. Glasnow came into Friday’s contest averaging 14.2 K/9 and raised it to 14.6 by the time his night was over. He again lowered his ERA, this time to 4.21 (3.47 FIP), and maintains an impressive 3.95 K/BB across 51-1/3 innings this season. Glasnow is 0-2 with a 7.07 ERA in five career outings (two starts) against the Mets.
Steven Matz allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out five across 2-2/3 innings against Atlanta on Friday. It was Matz’s first time pitching since he was activated from the Injured List Sunday, and it was his first start since August 15. The rust was clearly evident as he allowed eight hits (including two home runs) and three walks to the first 16 batters he faced. Matz’s outing makes him the third consecutive Mets starter to fail to go at least three innings after both Jacob deGrom (hamstring) and Seth Lugo were pulled before the third inning in their respective outings. The southpaw owns a 9.79 ERA to go along with a 3.33 K/BB across 26-2/3 frames this season. Matz relies primarily on a blazing 95 mph sinker that generates a lot of swings and misses and a firm 85 mph changeup that dives down out of the zone, while also mixing in a 78 mph curveball with sharp downward bite. He is 0-1 with a 1.42 ERA in one career start against the Rays. Key Matchups: Kevin Kiermaier (1-4), Manuel Margot (2-2, 3B, HR), Hunter Renfroe (1-1, 2B)