Back at it Tuesday night. The Tampa Bay Rays are primed and set to start another quick, two-game series against the Cardinals, this time in St. Louis. The red-hot Rays, owners of a 23-11 record since June 11, are coming off a huge three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins. Not only did they make up ground in both the AL East and in the Wildcard standings, they also walked away with the Knutson Cup.
Tampa Bay played host to St. Louis back in June, in the series that marked the mid-June turn around for the Rays. They split that series. As was true then, the Cardinals strength is their impressive pitching staff.
Led by Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals’ pitchers have held opponents to a combined .240 BA/.307 OBP/.349 SLG/.656 OPS slash line. Not so fast buckaroo, the Rays’ hurlers haven’t been too shabby themselves, especially since the beginning of June. David Price, Jake Odorizzi and company have held opponents to a combined .219 BA/.281 OBP/.346 SLG/.627 slash line for the better part of a month and a half.
Despite giving up three runs in the All-Star game, Wainwright has yielded two or fewer in seven straight starts while going 4-1. The He boasts 115 strikeouts and 27 walks while allowing only four homers – none in the last seven games – over 138 innings. Wainwright scattered seven hits over seven innings against the Rays in June. He’ll be opposed by Jake Odorizzi who continues to solidify his spot in the rotation; surrendering two or fewer earned runs in six of his previous seven starts and recording three wins over his last four decisions. Odorizzi has struck out 116 in 101 innings with 39 walks. Matt Holliday homered for the Cardinals’ only run last month against Odorizzi, who gave up three hits, one walk and struck out five over 7-1/3 innings. Alex Cobb will get the start against Lance Lynn Wednesday night; you can see their numbers (over the last 30 days) below.
Marc Topkin writes,
Since the loss of All-Star C Yadier Molina to injury, the big question about the Cardinals is whether to seek to improve an offense that ranks 29th in runs and homers or focus on an injury-depleted rotation, with Rays ace LHP David Price an option. Despite those woes, they have 54 wins, second most in the NL. 1B Matt Adams and SS Jhonny Peralta provide what power they do have, but OF Matt Holliday is their biggest threat. RHP Trevor Rosenthal anchors a powerful bullpen.
Adam Wainwright: Everyone should be familiar with what Wainwright has to offer by now. The cutter/fastball/sinker/curve ball throwing RHP has superb control of all his pitches. The Rays were able to tag Wainwright to the tune of nine base runners (seven hits, two walks) and get into scoring position when they faced him in June. The question begs, will they do anything with any opportunities they may get Tuesday night? If they can, Tampa Bay could walk away with a win against one of the best pitchers in baseball. Key matchups: Desmond Jennings (1-4), Kevin Kiermaier (1-3), James Loney (12-26, 3 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (2-5, RBI, BB), Jose Molina (2-5, 2B), Ben Zobrist (1-3, 2B).
Lance Lynn: The Rays beat up Lynn the last time they faced him (as a reliever), tagging the 27 year-old RHP for three runs in an inning of work. He has been good this season, though he isn’t infallible; opponents have touched the righty for four or more runs on five different occasions, and he’s walked three or more batters nine times — something that bodes well for the Rays’ patient hitters. Lynn can work his fastball into the 98 mph range out of the bullpen, though he’s more inclined to throw a low 90s fastball (touching 93) with sink as a starter. He also features an above average curve ball with tight spin, and an average change up. It should be noted, his curve pairs better with his fastball out of the pen due to the separation in velocity. Key matchups: Matt Joyce (1-1, HR), James Loney (2-3, 2B, RBI), Evan Longoria (1-1, 2B, RBI).
- Wainwright, who has a 1.24 ERA in his last six interleague home starts, could be in for a stiff test against the Rays. Tampa Bay has won 14 of 18, including a season best-tying five straight by a combined 29-9 score.
- The Rays last visited St. Louis in 2008, when the Cardinals won two of three games. The Cards lead 7-4 overall, 2-1 in St. Louis.
- There are not enough words…