The Tampa Bay Rays conclude their seven-game road trip with a four-game series in Baltimore, where they’ll take on the AL East leading Orioles.
The Rays might not be an immediate threat to the Orioles’ division lead, but these games still matter — especially if they hold onto hope of getting back into the thick of things. How the team fares within the division directly correlates with whether they’ll play relevant baseball into October.
Coming off a series split against the San Diego Padres, Baltimore enters the four-game set with an 18-13 against the division, good for a .581 winning percentage. Conversely, Tampa Bay — who has dropped a season high seven consecutive games — enters Camden Yards with a 12-12 record against the AL East; a .500 WP. That is, the Rays have done okay against the division, while the Orioles have fared better. I’ll reiterate the point, Tampa Bay needs to do well this weekend.
To be frank, the Rays’ .207 BA/.279 OBP/.357 SLG/.636 OPS/.257 BABIP/.274 wOBA line over the last 14 days doesn’t look good, especially in comparison to the Orioles, who have managed a .294 BA/.344 OBP/.510 SLG/.854 OPS/.338 BABIP/.362 wOBA line over the same span.
Manager Kevin Cash told reporters that the team would use the off-day Thursday to regain a positive mindset.
It’s definitely frustrating, Cash told reporters after the 6-1 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday. We’ve got a couple frustrating things going on right now. I don’t think it’s a mystery at all. We kind of see what’s taking place. …When you’re falling behind and we’re facing big-league hitters, they take advantage when they have the count in their favor. And they’re not missing very hittable pitches.
A lagging PMA, however, might not be the only thing at play.
Highest BA on Hard-Hit Balls
Red Sox .765
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) June 23, 2016
Which teams are reaching base most often when they hit a ground ball?
Royals 1st, Mets last
All teams ranked here- pic.twitter.com/BJUtZlEbvQ
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) June 24, 2016
Blame it on the lack of hard hit balls, something the Rays haven’t done with regularity of late. Blame it on bad luck — a .257 BABIP over the last 14 days speaks to that. Blame it on the myriad of injuries that have plagued the team. Or, blame it on a combination of the three. Whatever the case, Tampa Bay has matched a season worst eight games below .500 (31-39) by playing really poorly, particularly over the last week-and-a-half. I’ll reiterate the point once more, The Rays need to do well this weekend.
Cash will throw Matt Moore (3-4, 4.90 ERA), Matt Andriese (6-0, 2.88 ERA), Jake Odorizzi (3-3, 3.63 ERA), and Drew Smyly (2-7, 4.78 ERA) over the next four games. Buck Showalter will counter with Yovani Gallardo (2-1, 6.26 ERA), Kevin Gausman (0-5, 5.37 ERA), Chris Tillman (10-1, 3.11 ERA), and Tyler Wilson (3-5, 4.19 ERA).
Rays series starters
Moore allowed two runs on six hits over six innings, while striking out five and walking two on Saturday. The lefty allowed a solo shot and plated another run by hitting a batter with the bases loaded. Over his last two starts though, Moore has given up just two runs on eight hits while fanning 15 in 13 innings innings of work.
Andriese allowed two earned runs on three hits over 1-2/3 innings in Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Indians. The righty had a rocky 36-pitch tune-up for his upcoming Saturday spot start against Baltimore — his first poor performance since being moved to the bullpen. Prior to that, Andriese fired 3-2/3 scoreless frames over a pair of relief appearances.
Odorizzi allowed one run on four hits over six innings Sunday, fanning eight along the way, in a loss to San Francisco. He and Jake Peavy were in the midst of a pitcher’s duel over six innings, but Odorizzi watched as his bullpen handed the game to the Giants in the eighth. Nevertheless, Odorizzi’s line was good, even though he started off just seven of 22 batters with strikes and generated only 13 whiffs.
Smyly didn’t factor into the decision Monday in Cleveland, as he allowed four runs on eight hits over seven innings, while fanning five without. Smyly has notched 17 strikeouts with no walks over his last two starts, yet he hasn’t picked up a win over that span.
Orioles series starters
Gallardo gave two earned runs on five hits and four walks over five innings in a win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. He struck out five. Pitching for the first time since April 22 due to shoulder tendinitis, Gallardo looked solid against Toronto. The five-inning start helped snap the Blue Jay’s four-game winning streak, as Gallardo was able to give Baltimore 85 pitches before being pulled in favor of the bullpen. Gallardo has relied primarily on a whiffy 85 mph slider, an 89 mph sinker, and an 89 mph four-seam fastball with arm-side run and good “rising” action. He’s also mixed in a 77 mph swing-and-miss curveball, and an 83 mph circle changeup. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (2-3, 2B, 2 RBI), Logan Forsythe (3-10), Desmond Jennings (2-6, 3B), Brad Miller (2-7, 2B, 3B, BB)
Gausman gave up four runs on nine hits and a walk with five strikeouts over five innings on Monday. Gausman hasn’t been as bad as his record might suggest. He owns a 62/18 K/BB over 68 innings of work, and his 95 mph fastball is a formidable weapon. He is prone to giving up the long ball, however; his 12 homers in as many games speaks to that. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-3), Curt Casali (2-5, 2B), Logan Forsythe (4-7, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (6-21, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB)
Tillman got a ton of run support in Sunday’s win over Toronto, though he allowed four runs on five hits (including two home runs) in just five innings while striking out four. It wasn’t his sharpest start of the season, but the righty left the game with a four-run lead after throwing 99 pitches through five innings. He’s now allowed at least four runs in three of his last five starts. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-4, RBI, BB), Logan Forsythe (8-25, 2 2B, RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (17-54, 4 2B, 7 HR, 10 RBI, 5 BB), Logan Morrison (2-8)
Wilson allowed three runs on nine hits and a walk while striking out four over six innings in a no-decision on Tuesday. The 26 year-old righty has now allowed three or more runs six times this season, with the Orioles losing all but one of those contests. Wilson relies primarily on his 85 mph slider with little depth and run, an 89 mph sinker, and an 89 mph four-seam fastball that results in a good number of fly balls. He also mixes in a whiffy 77 mph curveball, and an 83 mph circle changeup. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-2, HR, 2 RBI), Brad Miller (1-1)
— The series includes a doubleheader on Saturday.
— Mark Trumbo broke out from an 8-46 slump with three hits, including his 21st homer, against San Diego on Wednesday.
— Jonathan Schoop went 2-3 with a double and an RBI on Wednesday. He has hit safely in 17 of his 21 games in June, batting .320 with seven doubles, four homers, 16 runs and 14 RBI during that stretch.