After splitting a four-game series with the Orioles in Baltimore, the Tampa Bay Rays made their way to the big city where they are set to start one last series against the Yankees, on Tuesday. The Yankees, who recently punched their postseason ticket for the first time since 2015, are coming off a series loss to the Blue Jays.
Tampa Bay’s offense woke up in Baltimore over the weekend, however, a poor start by Chris Archer on Sunday effectively signed the team’s death-warrant as it relates to a Wildcard berth. At 76-80, the Rays will now seek a consolation prize on what could be seen as a lost season — either go 5-1 and finish the year with a .500 record, or win six in a row and finish two-games over .500.
Two things stand in the way of the Rays and their de facto goal: the Yankees bullpen — which has been very good over the last 14-games — and themselves. Tampa Bay hasn’t won more than four consecutive games this season … and even then the Rays have only done so three times (5/16-5/20, 6/7-6/10, 7/8-7/15). Moreover, they are 6-10 against New York this season, and 1-6 in the Bronx.
Over the next three days Kevin Cash will lean on Blake Snell (4-6, 4.01 ERA, 4.28 FIP), Matt Andriese (5-4, 4.62 ERA, 4.89 FIP) and Jacob Faria (5-4, 3.32 ERA, 3.81 FIP), who will likely pitch in the place of Alex Cobb. Joe Girardi will counter with Jordan Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA, 4.20 FIP), Luis Severino (13-6, 3.03 ERA, 3.08 FIP), and Sonny Gray (4-6, 3.12 ERA, 4.39 FIP).
Snell continued his turnaround season on Wednesday, matching a career high by tossing seven scoreless innings in a win over the Cubs. Snell now has tossed at least seven innings in three of his last six starts, compared to just one in his first 35 big league starts. The southpaw entered Wednesday’s game with a respectable 3.75 ERA/1.17 WHIP/7.9 K:9 through 11 second-half starts, and has allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of his 12 post All-Star Break outings.
Montgomery posted six scoreless frames in his last start against the O’s, on September 19. It was the longest outing for the left-hander since July 25th. The Rays chased Montgomery after 2-2/3 innings after he allowed four runs on six hits and two walks on July 30th. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (2-4, 2B), Corey Dickerson (1-4, 2 RBI), Lucas Duda (1-1), Evan Longoria (1-4, BB), Trevor Plouffe (1-2, RBI), Wilson Ramos (1-2, RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (1-4, 2B, BB)
Andriese is looking to avoid his fourth loss in five starts. After performing to a 3.45 ERA in his first 11 turns, Andriese has posted an unsightly 8.47 ERA, and has allowed five homers in four starts since returning from the DL. He, however, turned in a solid six-inning, three-run start on Thursday, blanking the Orioles from the second inning on after allowing three first inning runs.
Severino was chased after he allowed three runs on five hits over three-innings of work. Be that as it may, he has a chance to climb up the Yankees’ single-season strikeout leaderboard against the Rays on Wednesday. He enters play with 221 strikeouts (fifth most) with a chance to catch David Cone (222) and CC Sabathia (230). Severino has allowed three-runs on 10 hits and four walks over 12 innings of work this season. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (1-2, HR, RBI), Corey Dickerson (4-8, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Evan Longoria (5-17, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Logan Morrison (1-4, 2B, RBI, BB), Mallex Smith (1-1), Steven Souza Jr. (3-10, 2B, RBI, 3 BB), Jesus Sucre (1-2, RBI)
Faria likely will get the start on Thursday instead of Alex Cobb, who has thrown 179 innings in his first full season since returning from Tommy John surgery. That is to say, Cobb’s last start was likely, well … his last start in a Rays uniform. In two relief appearances since returning from the DL, Faria has allowed two runs on two hits (including a homer) in five innings of work. He looks to break a five game losing skid in this, his final start of the season.
Gray has performed to a 3.12 ERA over 10 starts with the Yankees, as he prepares for his final tuneup for a potential October start. Gray allowed a solo homer in the third inning of his last start, but otherwise held Toronto in check while the Yankees scored three times in the fifth inning — allowing him to notch his 10th victory of 2017. The right-hander was a hard luck loser in his last start against Tampa Bay after he gave up just two runs on five hits (including two solo jacks) over eight innings of work. He struck out 10. Otherwise, he has allowed nine runs (six earned) on 21 hits over 20-1/3 innings against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Lucas Duda (1-4, 2B), Adeiny Hechavarria (1-3, HR, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (4-16, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI), Wilson Ramos (2-8, 2B, RBI)
— Matt Duffy participated in an Instructional League game on Monday, getting three at-bats. The goal is for him to be healthy going into the off-season, as he gets prepared for 2018 which could find him moving over to second base or slotting in as Adeiny Hechavarria’s understudy.
— Xavier Cedeno and Charlier Montoyo are both relieved to have finally heard from their families in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria crashed into the island nation six days ago. They are all safe, although they are still dealing with myriad issues.