The Tampa Bay Rays are in the throes of an 11-game losing streak, their longest since 2009. They, however, have a chance to redeem themselves when they open a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox on Monday.
The Rays are coming off a four-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, although some positives did come out of that failed road series. Rays skipper Kevin Cash hit on one such positive his post-game presser Sunday afternoon.
We’ll continue to look at some positives, the way the offense battled back … a lot of guys swung the bats well.
However, the offense was the least of the problems this past weekend. The pitching staff allowed an obscene number of two-out runs (9), while allowing at least five runs in all 11 losses, with the starters and relievers struggling along the way.
We pieced together our hits. We just have to be able to prevent them from scoring runs, which we did not, said Cash.
Looking at things in a larger context, it’s been a rollercoaster ride for Tampa Bay since mid-May. The Rays won five-of-six between May 14 and May 20, then immediately lost 11-of-13. They followed by winning 9-of-11, then began their current 11-game skid.
That’s not to suggest they’ll be overmatched over the next three series — Tampa Bay welcomes in a Red Sox team that’s lost 5-of-7 and are now four games out. Boston has lost 17-of-29 overall.
Both teams will depend upon their respective heavy hitters. Evan Longoria has plated 23 runs in his last 26 games while Xander Bogaerts has 24 in his last 27. The newest Ray, Oswaldo Arcia, went 3-of-7 over the weekend, with a homer, a run and three RBI.
The two teams have met only three times this season, when the Rays took two of three from Boston in April. After the Red Sox leave, the Rays will take on the Tigers and Angels — two teams that are currently at, or below, .500. Make no mistake, this is the beginning of make or break homestand for the reeling Rays.
Cash will throw Blake Snell (0-2, 2.70 ERA), Chris Archer (4-10, 4.70 ERA), and Matt Moore (3-5, 5.04 ERA) over the next three days. John Farrell will counter with Eduardo Rodriguez (1-2, 6.41 ERA), Rick Porcello (8-2, 3.93 ERA), and David Price (8-4, 4.68 ERA).
Rays series starters
Snell gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits over 6-2/3 innings, with three walks and three strikeouts in a loss on Tuesday against Cleveland. The lefty improved on his previous start, in which he lasted just 3-1/3 innings and gave up five runs (one earned) on eight hits. Snell’s control was a bit shaky in that start, throwing just 13 of 29 first-pitch strikes, and 57 strikes against 47 balls (55% K%). Snell has allowed seven free passes in 15 innings, and if he can’t rein in his control, that sparkling 2.40 ERA will be heading north in a hurry.
Archer feels that his struggles this season stem mainly from his performance in small stretches within games (especially in the first inning), and that he is still throwing the ball well overall.
Despite a major league-worst 10 losses, as well as a 4.70 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, the young right-hander remains confident in his ability to turn the season around. Archer is trying to remain focused on his process more so than the results and in executing enough of his pitches to give his team a chance to win each time he takes the mound. While some of the 27-year-old’s metrics appear to corroborate his belief that he’s firing away as effectively as ever, such as a 10.57 K/9 rate that is the second-highest of his career, his BB/9 and HR/9 rates, ERA and WHIP, along with the aforementioned losses, are on pace to be the worst he’s ever generated in those respective categories. Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey doesn’t necessarily disagree with Archer’s assessment, but also seems to feel that a thoroughly frank self-appraisal is needed at this point in the season. “But the process has not been good overall either. You may walk a guy leading off an inning you have no business walking and he ends up coming around and scoring, that is not a good process,” said Hickey. “I guess you have to identify what the process is and be a good, solid, honest evaluator of whether or not you actually executed what it is you set out to do. I think wins and losses, they count very much, especially at the end of the day.”
Moore fanned six, but allowed five earned runs on seven hits and a walk over 6-2/3 innings in Friday’s loss to Baltimore. Moore’s performance was mixed; the five earned runs marred 18 swinging strikes. He gave up a fourth inning solo homer to Adam Jones, yet was done in by lesser hits and a 45.5% LOB. It was a step back for the lefty, who posted back-to-back quality starts prior to Friday’s outing.
Red Sox series starters
Rodriguez allowed three runs in six innings for a no-decision on Wednesday. This came after he found himself in a stretch of three straight outings with four earned runs or more. Rodriguez has given up seven homers in 26-2/3 innings this season, largely because he hasn’t been comfortable with his breaking ball – he threw just four sliders out of his 102 pitches (77 fastballs, 21 changeups) thrown in Wednesday’s game. The southpaw relied heavily on his heater and changeup in that contest, a mix that bit him in the end after he gave up the game-tying homer in the sixth inning. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-3), Logan Forsythe (1-4, RBI, 2 BB), Brandon Guyer (1-3, HR, RBI, 3 BB), Evan Longoria (3-5, 2B, RBI, BB)
Porcello relinquished four runs on eight hits in 5-1/3 innings against the ChiSox on Thursday. He fanned two and walked one. Porcello has regressed of late, as he’s missed fewer bats than he did in April, when he whiffed 36 batters in 32-2/3 innings. Since the start of May, he’s struck out a modest 45 over 61-1/3 innings. In that span, Porcello’s allowed 31 earned runs, good for a 4.57 ERA. The Rays tagged the righty for three runs on six hits over seven innings in a 7-3 loss to Boston on April 20th. Key matchups: Oswaldo Arcia (2-5, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Corey Dickerson (2-7, 2B, HR, RBI), Logan Forsythe (5-14, 3B, 2 BB), Desmond Jennings (6-20, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Brad Miller (2-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Logan Morrison (4-10, 2B, RBI)
Price allowed six runs on 12 hits while striking out one over 2-1/3 innings, on Friday against the Rangers. The former Ray gave up runs in each of the three innings he took the mound, leaving the game with a 6-0 deficit. The rough outing broke a string of eight consecutive quality starts, while his ERA jumped to 4.68. Incidentally, the second shortest outing of the season came at the hands of Tampa Bay, for whom he has posted a 1-2 record and a 4.26 ERA against. In that start, Price gave up eight runs on eight hits and two walks, including two homers, in just 3-2/3 innings of work. Key matchups: Curt Casali (5-8, 3 HR, 5 RBI), Hank Conger (1-3, RBI), Nick Franklin (1-4, RBI)