The Tampa Bay Rays sent that team from Boston (and their pink hatted fans) packing Thursday night, tripping up the Red Sox by a score of 2-1 in walk-off fashion and walking away with their first home series win of the season. The Rays will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into the Trop for a three-game, weekend series.
Good times for a change; Tampa Bay welcomes back a pair of pivotal players from the DL on Friday — Drew Smyly and James Loney.
Smyly went 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA in six starts with the Rays last season. Though his first start of the season has been deferred by a few weeks, thanks to a bout with shoulder tendinitis, he’ll look to pick up where he left off last season. The best outing of Smyly’s career, ironically, came against the Blue Jays on August 22, when he tossed a two-hitter in an 8-0 win for his only complete game.
As for Loney, the Rays first baseman went 1-4 with a double in his only rehab start Thursday night with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. The re-addition of Loney to the roster offers the team defensive stability at first, and protection for Evan Longoria in the lineup.
Toronto will also face Chris Archer again, less than a week after he dominated them at the Rogers Centre. Archer limited Toronto to two hits in six innings, and has not given up an earned run in his last three starts (a team record).
The Jays are coming off a sweep of the Orioles, playing the last two without Jose Bautista due to a right shoulder soreness. Manager John Gibbons said Bautista will likely DH for a couple of days when he returns, although it’s not known whether that will be during this series or not. Whatever the case, Bautista was 1 for 11 with a homer and four walks in in the previous series against Tampa Bay.
Also on the shelf for Toronto is former Ray, and current backup catcher, Dioner Navarro with a strained left hamstring.
Devon Travis went 7-15 with a homer and two doubles in last week’s series while Edwin Encarnacion was held hitless in 14 at-bats. Encarnacion and Bautista are a combined 0-7 against Smyly. Expect the Rays to focus the glut of their attention on mitigating the threats in Toronto’s powerful lineup.
RA Dickey vs. Drew Smyly: Dickey’s streak of nine straight quality starts came to an end on Saturday. The knuckleballer surrendered two homers and walked four in a no-decision against the Braves. Smyly will make his first start of the season after leaving Spring Training in early March with left shoulder tendinitis. Smyly went 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA in seven starts with the Rays last year.
Daniel Norris vs. TBA: Norris is coming off the shortest outing of his brief career, lasting only 2-2/3 innings against Atlanta and allowing five runs. Norris posted a 5 IP/2 H/2 ER/1 HR/3 BB/4 K line against Tampa Bay on the 14th. The Rays list Saturday’s starter as TBA. RHP Matt Andriese would be available, though the Rays may be waiting to see whether they need him Friday in relief of Smyly. The Rays also could use RHP Erasmo Ramirez.On Saturday’s starter, Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) noted that the Rays could start Matt Andriese, Erasmo Ramirez, or Alex Colome Saturday:
Another option could be RHP Alex Colome, who would be on short rest after throwing in a rehab game Tuesday. Colome, who had been on the DL while recovering from pneumonia, will throw a bullpen session today.
Mark Buehrle vs. Chris Archer: Buehrle has enjoyed a pretty easy ride to the start of the season. Toronto scored 37 runs across his three outings, leading to three easy wins. Buehrle recorded a quality start in each outing. Archer has gone three straight starts without allowing an earned run, tying the club record (also shared by Alex Cobb and Matt Moore). Archer has not allowed an earned run since the sixth inning of his Opening Day start.
RA Dickey: Per RotoWire, Dickey escaped with a no-decision Saturday, allowing four runs on four hits (including two home runs) and four walks in seven innings, while striking out six. Despite posting a quality start against the Rays on the 13th, Tampa Bay took a 2-1 win due in large part to their ability to work five walks. As the saying goes, if it’s high let it fly, if it’s low let it go. Key-matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera (4-11, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Logan Forsythe (3-11, 2 2B, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (8-33, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-2, RBI, BB).
Daniel Norris: Per RotoWire, Norris complained of a dead arm phase after Sunday’s start against the Braves, but he checked out fine when the Blue Jays looked into it. As I wrote of Norris previously, colloquially called the Van Man, the 21 year-old left-hander has explosive late life to his fastball with a great finish, making his 92 mph seem more like 96. According to Baseball America, his slider rates average to plus and his change-up flashes plus. Norris also features what has been described as a hammer curve ball that has been described as devastating. Key match-ups: Brandon Guyer (1-2, 2B, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-3, HR, RBI).
Mark Buehrle: Per RotoWire, Buehrle struck out two and walked one while holding the Orioles to three runs on eight hits over six innings to improve to 3-0 on the season. The soft tosser has been a chronic thorn in the side of Tampa Bay. Whatever the case, the Rays were able to tag Buehrle for three runs on seven hits, including a massive shot off the bat of Souza Jr. in his previous start vs. Tampa Bay. Key match-ups: Tim Beckham (1-2), Logan Forsythe (8-19, 3 2B, RBI, BB), Brandon Guyer (4-15, 2 2B, BB), Desmond Jennings (10-25, 2B, RBI, 4 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-8, RBI), James Loney (6-24, 3 2B), Evan Longoria (13-44, 2 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB), Mikie Mahtook (1-1, HR), Steven Souza Jr. (1-3, HR, RBI).
— The team will activate both Drew Smyly and James Loney from the DL. Loney was deemed recovered from an oblique strain after going 1-for-4 as the DH in a rehab game on Thursday. Allan Dykstra was optioned back to Triple-A Durham.
— With the activation of Drew Smyly today, 16 of the 25 players on the Rays active roster were acquired by trade.
— There is a possibility that Alex Colome, who has made three rehab starts while recovering from pneumonia and said, may be activated before Saturday’s game. Colome told the media he felt ready to return after throwing a bullpen session Thursday, though the team seems more likely to have him make another rehab start in an effort to get him stretched out.
— With last night, Jake Odorizzi has 11 starts of six plus IP allowing three hits and one tun or fewer — the most in MLB since start of 2014.