The Tampa Bay Rays returned home, from a relatively quick road jaunt, where they’ll face the Seattle Mariners over the next three days, ahead of a previously scheduled off-day on Monday. Tampa Bay is coming off a three-game series loss to Toronto, while Seattle took two of three from Baltimore.
Hanging in playoff contention by a thread, something that has more to do with the fact that none have run away with the final Wildcard spot than it has with quality play of the Rays, a frustrated Evan Longoria opined that “losses are definitely tough at this point in the year.”
— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) August 17, 2017
With just 39 games left of the regular season, Longoria has a point. The Rays have been hard to watch, yet here we are with a team that is still in the hunt … one with an opportunity to make up some ground against a ball club that sits ahead of them in the Wildcard standings. But time is of the essence, and the Rays cannot afford to continue to squander quality starts by the pitching staff which has worked to a 2.92 ERA over the month of August.
We’ve got to turn it around, Rays manager Kevin Cash said. You can only delay it for so long and say there’s time, there’s time. Time is of the essence. We’ve got to start playing good baseball games whether we matchup well against that team or not, forget it. We have to play good baseball.
There are a couple of bright sides. Seattle is just two games removed from a five game losing streak, and Scott Servais will start three hurlers with +4.00 ERA’s over the last 14-days. Hopefully, yes hopefully, the Rays offense can muster enough offense to take at least two-out-of-three from the M’s.
On the contrary, however, the Rays faced the Mariners in early June and were swept in a three-game series.
Over the next three days Kevin Cash will lean in Austin Pruitt (1-2, 3.08 ERA, 4.32 FIP), Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 4.30 ERA, 5.64 FIP), and Blake Snell (1-6, 4.78 ERA, 4.84 FIP). Scott Servais will counter with former Ray Erasmo Ramirez (4-4, 4.73 ERA, 4.61 FIP), Ariel Miranda (7-6, 4.75 ERA, 5.43 FIP), and Yovani Gallardo (4-8, 6.41 ERA, 5.50 FIP).
Pruitt notched a quality start in his last turn against Cleveland, and has turned a corner of late. Over his last three starts and (spanning 18-1/3 innings) the right-hander has allowed just four runs on 11 hits and three walks. He also has worked to a 1.96 ERA along the way.
Ramirez will face the team that traded him before the deadline for Steve Cishek. Erasmo has been spotty since the deal, going 0-1 with a 4.40 ERA in three starts. He, however, is coming off his best outing with Seattle — throwing six innings of one run, three hit baseball against the Angels. But with .211 BABIP over the last 14 days, it’s safe to say Erasmo has been the beneficiary of good luck. For the sake of the Rays, who have been the recipient of bad luck over the same span, the luck dragons have got to change for both parties at some point. We all know what to expect from Ramirez: a zippy fastball, a whiffy changeup with a ton of movement, and a sinker that he tries to keep at the bottom of the zone.
Odorizzi was solid in his last start against Toronto and buckled down to control his stuff after allowing a first-inning home run. This was a good sign for the right-hander that is coming off back-to-back short outings. Odorizzi gave up a two-run homer to Josh Donaldson in the first inning, but cruised to a quality start through the next five frames. Unfortunately the Rays couldn’t come to life against Nick Tepesch, dropping Odorizzi to his sixth loss of the season.
Miranda is 0-2 with a 7.23 ERA over his past seven starts. He has given up 12 home runs over that stretch. The southpaw threw a complete-game victory against Tampa Bay on June 4 in Seattle, scattering just four hits and one run with nine strikeouts. That was the only time Tampa Bay has faced Miranda. Key Matchups: Trevor Plouffe (1-2), Daniel Robertson (1-3, 3B), Steven Souza Jr. (1-4)
Snell battled through six innings in his last turn. And even though he allowed four earned runs, manager Kevin Cash said it might have been Snell’s best start of the season because of his ability to come up big the last inning when his team needed it. After Snell gave up an early run on a fluke double, the left-hander locked it in and forced weak contact while keeping hitters off balance with his mix of pitches, including some particularly deadly off-speed stuff. As with his previous start, Snell played off his live fastball (53 thrown, 32 strikes), then followed with a pretty good changeup (30 thrown, 21 strikes) — both of which he moved around the zone.
Gallardo, the 31-year-old right-hander, is 0-1 with a 9.45 ERA over his past three starts. He lasted just four innings with eight runs and two homers in his previous start against Baltimore. The former Oriole/Ranger/Brewer is 3-2 with a 4.71 ERA in seven career starts against the Rays. He has not faced Tampa Bay this season. Key Matchups: Corey Dickerson (5-13, 2B, HR, 4 RBI), Lucas Duda (5-13, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Adeiny Hechavarria (2-8), Brad Miller (5-15, 2 2B, 3B, 3 BB), Trevor Plouffe (5-17, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (3-10, 2B, 2 RBI)
— Kevin Kiermaier (hip, back) is expected to rejoin the Rays on Friday.
We’re hoping all goes well, Cash said of his Thursday afternoon rehab start. He’s very, very close.
Mallex Smith likely will be optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room for Kiermaier.
— Alex Cobb (turf toe) is slated to throw a bullpen session on Saturday at Tropicana Field. If all goes well, he will rejoin the rotation next week, potentially as soon as Tuesday.
— Matt Andriese (hip) started for the Charlotte Stone Crabs Thursday night in the second of three scheduled rehab outings.