The Rays will start a series against the AL West leading Texas Rangers in Arlington on Monday. Coming off a lukewarm six game home stand, Tampa Bay looks to right the ship (in a manner of speaking) and return to their five runs per game form. Beyond being bested by Oakland, I’m not really certain what happened in the A’s series. I do know however, that this was an important series, and the Rays didn’t succeed at what they could or should have, excepting Thursday night’s 5-0 gem.
That the Rays ended their season series against the A’s with a 4-5 record doesn’t help either. As it stands, if the Rays and A’s were to end up as the two wild-card teams with the same record, the Athletics would get to host their one-game playoff based on the tiebreaker of the season series. Too, if they were to end up tied for the second wild-card spot, the same rule would put the play-in game in Oakland. There is a provision for the commissioner to assign the site based on travel considerations. And that this is predicated on a three run deficit over two days is mighty frustrating. But there’s nothing that we can do about the past…history is history.
The Rangers are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and have a very potent offense. Averaging over five runs a game, the Rangers are first in the American League in runs overall. They are, if I may, a damn good team offensively. However, they’re the fifth best pitching team in the AL with a team 3.88 ERA. The Rays will be depending upon their stellar pitching staff to equalize things, and level the playing field. Who better to take on the Rangers than David Price, James Shields, and Alex Cobb? The Rays have an opportunity to suppress Hamilton and Co., while pouncing on mediocre pitching. Stats and other various nuggets are below.
- How do the Rays stack up to the Rangers pitching? Let’s see:
- Derek Holland: The Rays have posted a team .313 BA/.373 OBP/.606 SLG/.979 OPS line against Holland in 99 at-bats.
Tampa Bay also has 31 hits (17 of which being extra base hits including five home runs off) and 10 walks of the Dutch Oven. Key match-ups: Matt Joyce (2-3, RBI), Jeff Keppinger (4-9, 2B, RBI), Evan Longoria (6-16, 4 2B, HR, 4 RBI), BJ Upton (7-15, HR, RBI), Ben Zobrist (5-15, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 5 RBI).
- Yu Darvish: The Rays have never faced Darvish.
- Matt Harrison: As with Holland, the Rays have put up good numbers against Harrison. Posting a team .333 BA/.400 OBP/.492 SLG/.892 OPS line against Harrison, with a pair of homers and four doubles in 63 at-bats. Key match-ups: Desmond Jennings (2-4), Elliot Johnson (2-3, 2B), Jeff Keppinger (3-7), Evan Longoria (5-6, 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI), BJ Upton (3-5, RBI), Ben Zobrist (2-9, 2B, RBI).
- Has Derek Holland learned anything from his past starts against the Rays? Let’s hope not. The Rays have put up some big numbers in the last couple of years against Holland, finding him with a six plus ERA against the Rays.
- The Rays are discussing adjusting their rotation next week, arranging extra rest for RHP Alex Cobb and/or LHP Matt Moore. They’re expected to reactivate Jeff Niemann on Saturday, which also happens to be the day that rosters can be expanded. Could we see some other players get recalled from Triple-A? I suspect yes. In any case, even though Niemann faced a minor setback, getting hit on his hand in a recent rehab start, he will presumably get the start Saturday.
- If the fans had their way, Pena wouldn’t be getting many more starts at first following a Saturday afternoon game filled with many jeers and very audible boos from the stands. And if the splits against the Rangers starters are reflective of anything, I suspect that we might see Jeff Keppinger at first, instead of ‘Los, for at least a game in their the upcoming series.
- As per the Dallas/Ft. Worth SB Nation webpage, “The Rangers have scored 44 runs in their past five games thanks to a surging Adrian Beltre and a much more comfortable Josh Hamilton. David Murphy, however, is the one to keep an eye on as he has been the hottest hitter in the major leagues in the month of August, with a .426 average and 1.162 OPS in the past two weeks.”
- The Rays are currently in first place in the AL wild card race a 70-57. However Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland are all breathing down their necks with 69 wins. That makes this series in Arlington with all the more important, as Tampa Bay cannot afford to drop many games in the standings at this point in the season.
Luke Being Luke?
I was trying to figure out a way to frame up what I wanted to say regarding Luke Scott’s recent interview with Marc Topkin and the Tampa Bay Times. Low and behold, DRaysBay did a good job of doing just that:
The RNC is officially in town, and of course, that gave Marc Topkin a reason to question Luke Scott about his political views. They’re as extreme as ever — even without the birther talk thrown in there — so be forewarned before clicking that link: it is political-talk, and it could be frustrating to read. Personally, I prefer to have as little reminder as possible that Luke Scott is a bit of a whack job.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Luke Scott can believe what he wants. He can also speak his mind openly and freely…as long as he’s productive at the plate. We were well aware of the extent of his extreme opinions when the Rays signed him. We’d have to be idiotic to assume that maybe he’d have a clean season without saying something controversial. Thankfully, the only off the cuff comments have come at the expense of the Boston Red Sox up to this point, but it was only a matter of time that he’d become engaged in a conversation about his politics.
I’ll reiterate my stance, he can say what he wants as long as he’s productive. Well kids, he hasn’t been productive. His numbers are down across the board, partly because he’s spent a significant amount of time on the DL with injuries extending from back problems that most 70 year-old’s don’t even face. Maybe if he was as adamant about having productive at-bats, or even a stretching routine that would keep him off of the DL, I’d be able to chalk his comments up to Luke being Luke. But he hasn’t.
If I may, Luke is being paid $5 MM this season to produce with his bat, not his mouth. I’m sure that any right-wing talk radio outlet would kill to have a young and somewhat hip new host, assuming that he’s looking to get paid for his opinion. But he’s certainly not here for what he thinks, Luke Scott is here to hit the ball consistently.
So Luke I say to you, shut your trap, hit the damn ball, and earn your keep with this organization. The Rays have had a hard enough time finding a spot for you in the lineup. You’ve given the Rays reason enough to continue their search for the perfect DH…don’t give them another reason.
Friends Doing Cool Things
Oh yeah, my buddy James (a supporter of this here blog among other things) threw out the pitch in Thursday’s game against the A’s. Below is a video of him doing just that.
(James Bowman of Against Me! throwing out the first pitch at the Trop on August 23, 2012)