The Tampa Bay Rays return home for a brief, three-game series against the Detroit Tigers on Monday, before they hit the road once again ahead of the All-Star Break. Tampa Bay most recently took two of three from the Mets, while Detroit split a four-game set with the Rangers.
After starting the series against the Mets on a rather frigid note, the Rays’ offense showed signs of life in the series finale — hammering New York for nine runs on nine hits (including three home runs). Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Kittredge held the Mets to just two hits and no runs, allowing the Rays to earn their league leading eighth shutout in the last 38 games.
Moving runners was a monumental task for Tampa Bay in the first two games, as the Rays went 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position. However, they inevitably showed they could both hit home runs and play small ball — going 5-for-13 (.385 batting average) wRISP the rest of the way.
The Rays should be able to continue that bourgeoning success against a Tigers’ pitching staff that has fared poorly on the road — performing to an 4.71 ERA/4.56 FIP/.258 opponents BA/.337 opponents OBP/.438 opponents SLG/.334 opponents wOBA over 372-1/3 innings away from Comerica Park. Furthermore, the Rays have won 11 of their last 15 (eight vs. contending teams) and allowed just 31 runs — 17 fewer than any other team.
In the end, there is a score to be settled with the Tigers, as Tampa Bay dropped two of three in Detroit, between April 30 and May 2, after picking up a win in the lead game. Hopefully all facets of the Rays will be up for the task.
Kevin Cash will lean on a rehabilitated Chris Archer (3-4, 4.24 ERA), and likely Matt Andriese (1-3, 3.71 ERA) and Ryan Yarbrough (7-4, 3.75 ERA) over the next three days. I will update this piece when that situation becomes clear. Ron Gardenhire will counter with Francisco Liriano (3-5, 4.03 ERA), Matthew Boyd (4-7, 4.58 ERA) and Jordan Zimmermann (4-0, 3.51 ERA).
Chris Archer will return from the disabled list on Monday, although he will likely be limited to about 75 pitches. The 29-year-old has been on the DL since June 5 with an abdominal strain, posting a 4.24 ERA and 1.34 WHIP over 76-1/3 innings prior to the injury. Archer appeared to be turning a corner though, firing off five quality starts over a stretch of seven appearances that was bookended by an injury marred, five inning outing against Seattle on the fifth of June. Over his last four starts against the Angels, Red Sox, Athletics and the Mariners, Archer allowed a total of three runs, while sporting a 2.18 K/BB. The secret to his success? He kept the ball inside the park.
Francisco Liriano took a loss Wednesday even though he allowed three runs on five hits, but five walks, across six innings. He struck out five. The five walks marked a new season high, and the southpaw is lucky that he only allowed three runs to cross the plate with so much traffic on the base paths. Liriano has posted back-to-back quality starts, yet he has taken a loss each time thanks to a lackluster offense that scored just two runs or fewer in each of Liriano’s last two outings. Despite that, he is 3-4 with a 5.40 ERA in 15 starts against the Rays, and 1-2 with a 9.73 ERA in seven games (five starts) at Tropicana Field. Key Matchups: Matt Duffy (3-6), Carlos Gomez (11-24, 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB), Daniel Robertson (2-6, HR, RBI, 2 BB), Mallex Smith (1-3), Jesus Sucre (1-2, RBI)
Matt Andriese fired two scoreless innings on Wednesday, allowing a hit and two walks. He recorded three strikeouts and threw 36 pitches overall. Andriese has become one of the most flexible options out of the Rays ‘pen, given his extensive starting and relief experience. After a rocky June (6.39 ERA over 12-2/3 innings), Andriese has posted four scoreless innings across a pair of appearances.
Matthew Boyd allowed seven runs (six earned) on seven hits over four innings in his last start against the Rangers. He struck out three. Boyd didn’t allow a run in the first inning, yet allowed multiple runs thereafter before receiving the early hook in the fourth. The key blows were a pair of two-run homers by Joey Gallo and Ronald Guzman. Boyd has been hit or miss since limiting the Rays to one run on May 1, allowing five or more earned runs three times over his past four starts — pushing his ERA up from 3.23 before his rough stretch to 4.58. He is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (1-3), Johnny Field (1-2), Adeiny Hechavarria (1-3), Kevin Kiermaier (1-1), Wilson Ramos (1-2, BB), Mallex Smith (1-3)
Ryan Yarbrough allowed two runs on four hits and one walk over three innings of a no-decision against Miami on Tuesday. He struck out three. Yarbrough ran into a bit of trouble in the second inning, loading the bases on an IBB before the opposing pitcher, Trevor Richards, laced a two-run single to center. Even though he limited the damage and breezed through the third inning with ease, Yarbrough didn’t come back out for the fourth despite tossing 6-1/3 innings and 90 pitches in his previous outing. He has allowed four runs total in his last 15-1/3 innings of work.
Jordan Zimmermann allowed one run on four hits over eight innings in a win against Texas on Friday. He fanned a season-high 11 batters. After serving up a leadoff homer to Shin-Soo Choo, Zimmermann was all but untouchable the rest of the way, throwing 67 of 96 pitches for strikes including 15 swinging strikes (70% strike rate, 22% whiff rate). Zimmermann has been outstanding since returning from the DL in mid-June, posting a 1.80 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and a 24 K/BB over four starts (25 innings). He two-hit the Rays in a seven inning scoreless outing on April 30, and is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in six career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Matt Duffy (2-3), Kevin Kiermaier (3-7, 2B)
— Another unfortunate break for the Rays, RHP Chaz Roe has been placed on the 10-Day DL with a torn meniscus in his left knee, requiring arthroscopic surgery. He is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks.
According to Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), the injury means further changes to the already amorphous bullpen roles, with rookie Diego Castillo likely replacing Roe in facing the toughest right-handed hitters in late-inning situations, and others, including Jaime Schultz, who was called up Sunday, taking on more challenging work.
We’re going to have a bunch of guys probably moving now, manager Kevin Cash said.
Roe had a 3.60 ERA in 41 appearances overall and hadn’t allowed an earned run in 17 of his previous 18 games before Friday.
It’s definitely disappointing, Roe said. I’d been feeling great on the mound and to end it like this right now kind of sucks. But I thought this was the best time to get it done, pitching well right now and hopefully come back even better.
To fill Roe’s spot on the 25-man roster, the team has recalled RHP Jaime Schultz from Triple-A Durham.
— 1B/DH CJ Cron is starting to get toasty, slashing .438 BA/.500 OBP/.813 SLG/1.313 OPS/.375 wOBA in the month of July, with seven hits (four for extra bases) and four runs batted in. He’s struck out just twice in 18 July plate appearances.