The Tampa Bay Rays have won three series in a row for the first time this season, and they will try to make it four when the Seattle Mariners come to town, starting Tuesday.
The Rays are coming off a solid 5-0 win against the Houston Astros on Sunday. For a team that went 11-15 at home going into the previous series, taking two-of-three from the Astros was huge.
It’s a great pattern, Rays manager Kevin Cash said following the series finale. It’s really good it’s coming here at home, because we’re not winning enough series at home. We talked about it before this series started, before this home stand started, we need to start winning ballgames at our park.
Tampa Bay got second baseman Logan Forsythe back from the DL last week, yet they continue to play without Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer. Mikie Mahtook, who was recalled when Kiermaier was placed on the DL, stepped up in Sunday’s win, getting a two-run single in the series finale.
It’s huge, any time you can win a series, it’s big, Mahtook told AP Sports. We are playing really good baseball right now. The guys in this clubhouse have never doubted each other and we believe in each other. We feel like we are a really good team. I think we are showing that right now by finding different ways to win, day in and day out.
Tampa Bay has averaged four or more runs in eight of its last 10 games. Thanks to a pitching staff that has limited the opposition to 3.6 runs (on average) over that span, the Rays have won seven straight games when scoring four or more runs. The captain, Evan Longoria, leads the team with 67 hits, while Steven Souza Jr. has 25 RBI and Logan Morrison has seven homers.
On the contrary, the Seattle Mariners have lost seven of their last 10 games, while allowing 13 runs in their last three, and five or more runs in seven of their last 12. Even though Mariners’ hurlers have a combined 3.66 ERA, the team has lost five of its last seven when allowing more than three runs.
Seattle is 5-1 in its last six against the AL East, yet 1-4 in Tijuan Walker’s last five starts. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, is 9-4 over a 13 game span. Be that as it may, the Mariners are 6-0 in the last six contests with Tampa Bay.
Kevin Cash will throw Jake Odorizzi (3-3, 3.47 ERA), Drew Smyly (2-7, 4.94 ERA), and Blake Snell (3-5, 3.29 ERA) over the next three days. Scott Servais will counter with Tijuan Walker (3-6, 3.48 ERA), Nathan Karns (5-2, 4.09 ERA), and James Paxton (0-2, 2.25 ERA).
Rays series starters
Odorizzi has been consistent of late with a sparkling 2.52 ERA at the Trop. He is 1-1 with a 0.52 ERA and 18 strikeouts in his career against Seattle.
Smyly had his start pushed back to Wednesday, giving him a mental break. After a poor stretch of starts dating back to the start of May, the team wanted to give Smyly some time to clear his head.
This is the second time Snell, 23, has been promoted, with the first coming in a spot start against the New York Yankees on April 23 — his Major League debut. The southpaw looked good in that start, holding the Yankees to just one run on two hits and a walk over five innings, collecting six strikeouts along the way. He was returned to Triple-A Durham, where he has put together an impressive season thus far, slashing, 3.29 ERA/2.58 FIP/12.9 K9/3.21 KBB over 63 innings. However, Snell has exhibited some control issues over his Minor League career — 28 walks this season, and a 4.4 BB/9 over 485 innings pitched.
Mariners series starters
Walker limited the Indians to three hits over eight scoreless inning, striking out 11. The 11 strikeouts tied a career high for the righty, and propelled him to his first win in his last seven decisions. Still Walker has had a hard time with being able to consistently control his pitches…although that wasn’t apparent Wednesday, when he threw strikes on 21 of 27 first pitches, didn’t walk a batter, and induced 17 whiffs. This season Walker has relied primarily on his 95 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in a hard 89 mph worm-killer of a splitter, a 76 mph 12-6 curveball, and a ground ball inducing 89 mph cutter. Key matchups: Hank Conger (3-5, 2B), Corey Dickerson (1-3, HR, 4 RBI), Evan Longoria (1-2, 2B, BB), Steve Pearce (3-5, RBI)
Karns walked five and lasted just 4-1/3 innings Thursday against the Indians, but allowed only one run on two hits. He fanned five and didn’t factor into the decision. His control has abandoned him of late, as he’s walked five and failed to finish five innings in consecutive outings. He threw 92 pitches before being chased by Cleveland on Thursday. Karns’ FIP is better this season than it was last season with Tampa Bay, although his ERA is worse. The increase in walks has become a big problem, as has his 23.9% line-drive rate. As a Rays fan, you should already know what to expect from Karns: a big fastball, a power curveball and a much-improved changeup. Key matchup: Steve Pearce (2-6, HR, 2 RBI)
Paxton scattered six hits over 6-1/3 scoreless innings, but didn’t factor in the decision on Saturday night. He walked a pair and struck out seven. The lefty has been the unfortunate recipient of terrible run support. He allowed one run over six innings two starts back, and did even better the last time around, however, he still remains winless through three starts. Paxton has fanned seven or more in each of his games, and sports an impressive 6.00 K/BB through 16 innings of work. In 2016, Paxton has relied primarily on his blazing 96 mph four-seam fastball with arm-side run, while mixing in a whiffy 91 mph cutter, a hard 83 mph knuckle curveball that generates a good number of fly balls, a hard 87 mph changeup, and an unfair 98 mph sinker. Key matchup: Evan Longoria (1-3, HR, 2 RB)
— Seattle’s lineup hasn’t fared well against lefties — the Mariners are hitting .246 as a team vs. .267 against right-handed pitchers.
— Both teams will see familiar faces over the life of the series: Nathan Karns, who pitched for the Rays last year; Brad Miller, who is batting .242 with six home runs and 20 RBI, and four stolen bases; Logan Morrison, who slashed .351 BA/.455 OBP/.486 SLG/.941 OPS/.135 ISO/.411 BABIP/17 wRC/6.7 wRAA/.410 wOBA in May; and Mike Montgomery, who has collected a 2.27 ERA in 23 appearances.
— Looking forward to this weekend’s series with the Giants, the Rays are dedicating Friday’s annual Pride Night to the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando. All open seats to Friday’s game are available for $5.00, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Pulse Victims Fund. We’ll be there in section 143, and so should you!
— #VoteRays (@RaysBaseball) June 14, 2016