After a back-to-back one-run losses against the Chicago White Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays enter the series finale in salvage mode. The Rays start the day 9-1/2 out of the final Wildcard spot, but seven behind the slumping Mariners, and in need of a victory to stay above the .500 mark.
As Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) noted, Tampa Bay now has had 19 losses this year when allowing three runs or fewer, and 11 defeats when giving up two runs or less. That’s the most in the majors in each category. The Rays are now 20-25 in one-run games.
Brandon Lowe, promoted to the big leagues yesterday, is slated to make his Major League debut this afternoon for the Rays. When he takes the field, he will become the 20th rookie used by the team this season — extending a club record, which also is the most in the majors.
The rush of emotions was unbelievable, said Lowe. Honestly, it’s all pretty shocking to me. I wasn’t thinking of it at all.
I wrote about the 2015 third-round pick from Maryland yesterday:
The Rays promoted INF/OF Brandon Lowe from Triple-A Durham to fill Robertson’s spot on the roster. Lowe has had a tremendous year thus far, slashing .291 BA/.400 OBP/.508 SLG/.908 OPS/.404 wOBA/153 wRC+, with 37 runs, 41 RBI, and eight home runs with Double-A Montgomery. He was promoted to Durham (when Jake Bauers made the leap to the bigs) where he performed to a .304 BA/.380 OBP/.613 SLG/.993 OPS/.432 wOBA/177 wRC+ line, with 36 runs, 35 RBI, and 14 homers in 45 games (205 plate appearances).
Lowe was ranked the ninth best second base prospect by MLB Pipeline, and the 30th best Rays prospect by Baseball America prior to the start of the 2018 season. A good comparison to Lowe would be Joe Panik, although the biggest difference between the two would be defensive abilities. To his credit, Lowe has good footwork and defensive skills at second base, but he did have his share of defensive woes in Double-A last season, which could be attributed to a pair of injuries; a torn ACL in 2013 and a broken left fibula in 2015.
Lowe has had a quick ascension through the Rays system, winning MVP honors just a season ago with the advanced Class-A Florida State League, then jumping two levels in the 2018 campaign.
However, Lowe’s ascent arose out of a closed door/open window type of scenario when UTL Daniel Robertson was placed on the 10-day DL with a left thumb sprain.
Robertson saw team hand specialist Dr. Doug Carlan this morning, and the prognosis was not good, which Rays manager Kevin Cash spoke to.
We probably knew that surgery, or no surgery, he was going to miss most of the (remainder of the) season, if not all of it. (Robertson has been) such a big part, even once the game started (Saturday), not having him out there. Not having him on the bench to do different things, it’s going to hurt. We’re going to need to kind of dive into our versatility a little more.
Robby wasn’t just versatile. He was good wherever you put him, and he was giving good at-bats. So, tough guy to replace.
Robertson will undergo surgery on his left thumb in next few days, likely spelling an end to his 2018 season.
Not good news, said Robertson, who noted he’ll have the surgery either Tuesday or Thursday. I’m not a math guy, but six to eight weeks, and we’ve got about seven weeks of the season left. Probably not going to be a need to push it. If there’s something going on, we’re making a late push, maybe. But it’s something I just have to take day by day to get it cleaned up.
Robertson was diagnosed with a sprained left thumb following Friday’s game against Chicago and was advised to undergo surgery to correct the damaged finger. While an official timetable for Robertson’s return to baseball activities won’t be established until the procedure his conducted, such surgeries typically keep position players sidelined for around two months.
Joey Wendle is expected to serve as the Rays’ primary option at second base while Robertson is on the mend.
The New What Next
Hunter Wood (0-0, 3.05 ERA) will get the start for the Rays, while LHP Ryan Yarbrough (10-5, 4.02 ERA) is available for length. They’ll be opposed by former Ray James Shields (4-13, 4.56 ERA)
Wood will open for the fifth time this season. In the first four outings, he has allowed one run total. Wood opened the series finale against Angels (in the last series) and threw two shutout innings, fanning five.
Yarbrough allowed six earned runs on nine hits and a HBP over five innings on Tuesday. He struck out four. Yarbrough cruised through his first three innings in relatively uneventful fashion, but that all began to change in the fifth — ironically, after he’d been staked to a nine-run lead — when he allowed a two-run home run to Kole Calhoun. A pair of RBI singles followed in the sixth, and the southpaw gave up the sixth run of his outing when Mike Trout took him deep in the seventh.
Shields allowed four runs on five hits across seven innings on Tuesday. He struck out eight and walked three. Shields tossed four scoreless innings before giving up a couple two-run homers, one in the fifth inning and the other in the seventh. Shields now has the second-most losses in the big league (trailing another former Ray Alex Cobb, who has 14), yet his 1.29 WHIP and .237 batting average against are both respectable figures. The right-hander has been susceptible to the long ball — giving up 20 on the season — while sporting a run-of-the-mill 2 K/BB over 144 innings. Still, the workhorse is 3-0 with a pristine 1.37 ERA in four career starts against his former team. Key Matchups: Carlos Gomez (5-11, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-4, BB), Tommy Pham (1-3, HR, RBI)
You can read about the series in our preview.
Rays 8/5/18 Starting Lineup
— Per Solondz, the White Sox starters have kept the Rays off balance in this series by throwing less than 50 percent fastballs in each of the first two games, and expect Shields to do the same.
— Try not to sound too optimistic or anything, Stu:
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg said feedback from the group of business leaders backing the push for the proposed Ybor City stadium continues to be positive, writes Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) “There’s optimism,” he said. “I’ve met with the business guys a bit, and they’re optimistic, but we’ll see. Having the stadium (design) out there now and everybody seeing it is very helpful to them and ideally it’s helpful for anybody that wants baseball in Tampa Bay.”
As the saying goes, confidence walks in silence, and well…