On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays will again welcome the Baltimore Orioles into Tropicana Field for a three-game series.
When considering the 2017 PECOTA projections, the Rays are living up to their expectations. They’ll head into the series just 2-1/2 games out of first place, seated comfortably in second place (with the Yankees and Red Sox virtually tied for first) in one of the best divisions in baseball. That doesn’t mean they are playing excellent baseball, rather, they’re out-hitting their mistakes — something they will have to tighten up if they hope to remain relevant.
It’s a big series for both teams as we quickly approach the midway point of the season. The Rays have an opportunity to further separate themselves from the two teams beneath them in the standings. Though with the recent slump by the Yankees, the AL East appears to be up for grabs, and as bad as the Orioles have played, they are still only five games out of first place.
Still, the Orioles are 1-10 in their last 11 road games against a team with a winning record — 6-20 in their last 26 road games against a team with a winning home record. Meanwhile, the Rays are 4-1 in their last five games against a team with a losing record, 7-2 in their last nine home games.
A simple fact, Baltimore is terrible on the road, while Tampa Bay has been great at home.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will lean on Chris Archer (5-4, 3.75 ERA, 2.88 FIP), Jacob Faria (3-0, 1.37 ERA, 1.51 FIP), and Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 3.78 ERA, 5.34 FIP). Buck Showalter will counter with Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2, 6.94 ERA, 7.08 FIP), Dylan Bundy (7-6, 3.72 ERA, 4.64 FIP), and Chris Tillman (1-5, 8.39 ERA, 6.52 FIP).
Archer picked up his first win since May 26 in a 3-2 victory over Detroit. He fanned eight over six innings, while allowing two earned runs. The right-hander also extended his franchise-record streak of 100-pitch games to 24. After struggling through his last outing (four runs across six innings), Archer notched his fourth quality start in six tries. He has been inconsistent as of late, although the right-hander boasts a solid 3.75 ERA/2.88 FIP to go with an impressive 11.4 K/9 through 15 starts. Baltimore tagged Archer for five runs 6-2/3 innings of work earlier this season.
Jimenez worked around four hits and four walks in an impressive seven-inning return to the mound as a started on Sunday; his first start since May 22. His four previous outings came in relief. Showalter had Jimenez on a short leash in his last start against the Rays, who tagged him for three runs on three hits (including a homer) and five walks over just 3-1/3 innings on April 24. Still, the right-hander is 5-2 with a 3.47 ERA against Tampa Bay over nine career starts. Key Matchups: Tim Beckham (1-1, BB), Logan Morrison (5-9, 2 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB), Colby Rasmus (13-43, 6 2B, 3B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB)
Faria continued his impressive rookie campaign, holding Detroit to just one run over seven innings while fanning nine. He walked only one. Faria became only the fifth pitcher since 1913 to pick up a win while hurling at least six innings and allowing no more than a run in each of his first three career games.
Bundy received a loss on Monday after surrendering six earned runs on six hits (including a homer) 4-1/3 innings against Cleveland. It appears that Bundy’s recent struggles are the result of a heavy workload, so he has been pushed back in the order so he can get some extra days of rest. Bundy, Baltimore’s former top prospect, certainly could use that rest, as he has a 7.63 ERA in his past three starts. To his credit, Bundy threw 6-1/3 quality innings against Tampa Bay on April 26, allowing just two runs on four hits (including two homers). Key Matchups: Tim Beckham (2-3, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (2-8, HR, RBI), Logan Morrison (2-8, 2B)
Odorizzi equaled a season high in his seven inning start against Cincinnati his last time out. He, however, continued his stretch of games, where he allowed at least a homer to 10 games straight — one shy of a franchise record. The right-hander cruised through the first four innings, yet a solo home run by Scott Schebler in the fifth inning and a two-run shot from Scooter Gennett in the sixth left the Rays down by three when he departed after the seventh. Still, the right-hander delivered his second quality start in the last three outings and holds a respectable 3.78 ERA (but a bloated 5.34 FIP) for the season.
Tillman hasn’t earned a win since May 7, his first start of the season. The right-hander was pulled after he allowed five earned runs over four innings against Cleveland on Tuesday. After missing the first month of the season due to a shoulder issue, and then tossing five pristine innings in his 2017 debut, Tillman’s been nothing short of a dumpster fire. His ERA now stands at 8.39, and the only thing that’s kept him in the rotation is a lack of alternatives within the organization. The Rays have handed him a career 8-11 record and a 4.11 ERA in 25 starts. Key Matchups: Tim Beckham (1-4, RBI, BB), Peter Bourjos (1-2), Evan Longoria (19-63, 4 2B, 3B, 8 HR, 11 RBI, 5 BB), Logan Morrison (6-14, 2B, 3B, RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (3-11, 2B, RBI, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (6-20, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB)
— Reinforcements are expected this weekend! Brad Boxberger and Wilson Ramos are both expected to make their 2017 debuts with the Rays this weekend, potentially as early as Friday. Boxberger will, ideally, help stabilize a beleaguered bullpen, while Ramos — who helped Washington’s pitchers earn a 3.45 ERA with him behind the plate, while also cultivating a 33.3% caught stealing rate — will be a nice addition to the roster, both offensively and defensively.
Heard from someone in AAA Durham clubhouse Ramos was saying goodbyes last night, so maybe he joins #Rays sooner than Sunday?
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 23, 2017
We will have a roster update when either of the two (or both) are activated from the DL.
— The Rays signed right-handed reliever Mike Broadway, and assigned him to Double-A Montgomery.
— INF Michael Martinez, who was designated for assignment this week, cleared waivers and elected for free agency. Good riddance.