Historically a good road team, Tampa Bay will try to snap a 10-game losing streak away from the confines of Tropicana Field — tied for the third-longest in franchise history. Sadly, the Rays are 16-26 on the road this season, and at the precipice of a nine-game trip that will take them through Denver, Oakland, and Los Angeles.
If, like Kevin Cash, you believe Tampa Bay has a shot at contention — albeit it an infinitesimally small one — success during this stretch of games will be crucial, as the Rays find themselves with an opportunity to right the ship against a pair of sub .500 ball clubs, before they take on the second place Dodgers. If you’re keeping track, they must go 51-20 (.718 baseball) from here on out for Evan Longoria and company to have a shot at an AL wildcard berth.
Rays DH/OF Corey Dickerson will return to Coors Field for the first time since being traded from the Rockies on January 28 for LHP Jake McGee.
Dickerson has collected 13 homers and 35 RBI this season, however, his .223 batting average speaks to the fact that he hasn’t made the consistent splash he was expected to when Matt Silverman cobbled together the deal last January. Be that as it may, he collected nine hits during a season-high, six-game hitting streak that ended Saturday. He is 19-62 (.306) extending back to June 21. In 265 games with Colorado, Dickerson hit .299 with 39 homers and 124 RBI.
Dickerson is excited for his return, telling reporters:
I haven’t seen those guys since I got traded, so it will be pretty cool to say ‘bye’ in the right way but also say ‘what’s up’ to the guys and enjoy the time there.
As for McGee, the former Ray has been a disappointment, going 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA in 30 games, while allowing five homers in 25-1/3 innings. Despite going 15-for-19 in save opportunities, he lost the closer’s role before suffering a left knee sprain that sidelined him for three weeks; he was activated from the DL on July 2.
Kevin Cash will throw Drew Smyly (2-10, 5.47 ERA), Blake Snell (1-4, 3.69 ERA), and Chris Archer (4-13, 4.68 ERA) over the next three days. Walt Weiss will counter with Tyler Anderson (1-3, 3.03 ERA), Tyler Chatwood (8-5, 3.29 ERA), and Jorge de la Rosa (6-6, 5.50 ERA).
Rays Series Starters
Smyly allowed seven runs (four earned) on eight hits and three walks over four innings in a loss against the Angels. After pitching two scoreless frames, Smyly gave up four third inning runs, and things snowballed from there, leading to his 10th loss of the season. He’s now allowed at least four earned runs in seven of his last eight starts, while his ERA has ballooned to an ugly 5.47.
Snell turned in his best Major League start when he allowed two runs on four hits over six innings against the Angels on July 7.
Archer relinquished four earned runs on seven hits and a walk over 7-1/3 innings in a loss to the Orioles on Friday. He fanned six. Though Archer featured his best stuff of the season in that start, he was still saddled with his 13th loss, equaling the career-worst figure in that category. Archer collected 22 whiffs and threw 71 of his 105 pitches for strikes (68% K%) overall.
Rockies Series Starters
Anderson earned his first career win in his last start, holding Philadelphia to two runs over six innings. He has not allowed more than three runs in any of his starts this season, and is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings at Coors Field. The 26 year-old lefty relies primarily on a 92 mph worm-killer, four-seam fastball; an 82 mph whiffy changeup, and an 87 mph “rising” cutter. Anderson also tends to mix in a 91 mph sinker with little arm side run and little sink.
Chatwood allowed four earned runs on eight hits and three walks over five innings in a 10-3 loss to the Phillies on Sunday. The 26 year-old righty pitched to contact, coaxing only five whiffs (out of 55 total) on the afternoon. In a nutshell, Chatwood was BABIPd to death in his time on the mound. Four of Chatwood’s five losses have come at Coors Field this season, where he’s posted an ERA well over three runs higher at home. The righty relies primarily on a 93 mph sinker with little sinking action and arm side run, a worm-killing 93 mph four-seam fastball, and a hard 87 mph slider. Chatwood also tends to mix in a a 78 mph curveball with a lot of depth.
de la Rosa gave up two runs on eight hits and three walks over six innings on Friday, striking out two. The lefty was staked with a seven run lead before allowing single tallies in the fifth and sixth innings. He’s now held opponents to three runs or fewer over each of his last six starts, lowering his ERA from 8.81 to 5.50 on the year. de la Rosa relies primarily on a heavy 91 mph four-seam fastball, and an 83 mph splitter with below average velocity. He also mixes in a ground ball inducing 87 mph cutter, and a 75 mph curveball. Key matchups: Evan Longoria (1-1, HR, RBI), Logan Morrison (1-3, RBI)
— Evan Longoria became the second AL third baseman with eight 20 home run seasons, and one-of-16 all-time. He’s also one-of-three third baseman ever with 20 homers in eight of his first nine seasons.
— Corey Dickerson will hopefully get his homer groove back over the span of this series.
— Sam Blum (MLB.com) has a valid point:
For as much (fair) criticism as the Rays have received, they’ve played 68 games against teams over .500, and 23 against teams below .500.
— As the inmitable Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) wrote, the Rays are coming off a series where they received six or more innings from a starter in each game, and it paid dividends. The bullpen did not allow a run, and has now pitched scoreless ball in five straight games (11.1 innings).