Despite a gaudy 36.5% strikeout percentage, Souza has gone deep in four of the first six games on what will be a 10-game road trip. The Rays have won four of five with Butler going 10-21 including two homers, four runs and four RBI.
Kevin Cash’s crew will enter the confines of Safeco Field with a proverbial head full of steam and an axe to grind — after all, the Rays were swept by the Mariners in three-games last week although they won the last two series.It goes without saying, both teams have very good pitching staffs, and each of the next four games may come down to which respective hurler will blink first. The largest deficit between Mariners and Rays was three runs, and Tampa Bay remained competitive in each of those games. For the Rays, a question remains — can pounce on the scoring opportunities that come their way (cough…they went 3-28 wRISP against the Mariners for a whopping .107 batting average). Roenis Elias: Elias had his worst start of the year in a 4-3 loss to Cleveland on Saturday. The 26 year-old lefty gave up four runs and five hits with four walks in 5-1/3 innings after surrendering three runs in 20 innings over his previous three starts.
As I wrote previously, Elias is said to be a predictable pitcher, in that batters have a good sense when he is going to throw his breaking stuff. One of the culprits, Elias’s release points are all over the place. Against right handed hitters his curve and change are off by almost half a foot. Per Jeff Zimmerman (FanGraphs), the difference between the two pitches to lefties is almost five inches (.4 ft). Another culprit, pitch count patterns and situations. If the batter knows he’s going to get a curveball, especially in a traditional curveball count, he’s prone to sit on the pitch for a ball. It’ll be interesting to see if this hold true on Monday. Key matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera (2-4, 2B, RBI), Jake Elmore (2-2, 2B, BB), Logan Forsythe (2-5, HR, RBI, BB), Brandon Guyer (1-3), Rene Rivera (2-6, 2B, HR, RBI).
JA Happ: Per Rotowire, Happ put together a solid outing on Sunday against the Indians, giving up just two runs in five innings with two strikeouts and a walk. He did not factor into the decision. The lefty allowed three runs (all earned) on seven hits in six innings against Tampa Bay on the 26th. Key matchups: Joey Butler (2-3, 2B), Asdrubal Cabrera: (2-6, 2B, BB), Jake Elmore (2-3, 3 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (1-4, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (5-16, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Rene Rivera (1-3, 2B).
Felix Hernandez: Per Rotowire, Hernandez failed to make it out of the fifth inning Monday, allowing seven runs on six hits and a season-high five walks in 4.2 innings against the Yankees. He struck out four. Still King Felix stymied Tampa Bay in a complete game shutout on the 27th, and he continues to generate ground balls at an insane rate (63.8% GB% over the last 14 days) and he remains a model of durability — he hasn’t made less than 31 starts in any season dating back to 2006. Key matchups: David DeJesus (13-39, 4 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB), Logan Forsythe (3-10), Brandon Guyer (1-3).
Mike Montgomery: Montgomery was acquired from Kansas City in the James Shields trade, and sent to Seattle for Erasmo Ramirez. He pitched six solid innings in his major-league debut Tuesday, allowing one run on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts against the Yankees. Montgomery features a good fastball and the change-up, and his curveball has biting sink; it also generates a good number of fly-balls.
— Erasmo Ramirez will face his former team for the first time since being traded on March 31. Erasmo went 0-6 with a 4.81 ERA in his last 10 starts at Safeco dating back to August 24, 2013. He also never gone went more than six innings in a start without allowing a run. After starting the season with an 0-1 record and an 8.38 ERA, Ramirez has posted a 3.13 ERA and .149 opponent batting average since. He is coming off a season-best start against the Orioles, allowing three singles in seven shutout innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.
— Matt Moore said he felt good after his first official rehab start for the Stone Crabs on Wednesday, although he would like to put together a more competitive outcome:
I feel all right. It’s definitely not bad for the first one. As a competitor, I’d like to go out there and have the results that we all desire, but that’s not the reality of things, especially this early in my rehab stint. But I think it was a solid place to start.
Moore will throw a bullpen session Friday, then the team will decide where his next start will be.
— Desmond Jennings (left knee) is slated to see a knee specialist at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado. If I may, Jennings can take his time — Joey Butler has done a MUCH better in his 81 at-bats than Jennings in 67.