The Tampa Bay Rays are set to open a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals in the midst of trade rumors that threaten to tear the band apart (to an extent). In any case, the Royals enter the Trop having lost their last four games, while the Rays have won four straight.
Kansas City is coming off a failed weekend series against the Rangers. The Royals dropped the first three games, collecting just combined seven runs, before dropping the finale to the Rangers 5-3. As for the Rays, they effectively made the Yankees sellers at the trade deadline by outscoring, and sweeping, the Evil Empire 16-7.
There is a larger issue with the Royals. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kansas City currently owns the lowest win percentage in a calendar month of at least 15 games for a defending World Series champions. The culprit? Inconsistent pitching.
On the other hand, Tampa Bay’s pitching has looked really good since the All-Star Break.
We’re starting to see a trend: When you pitch well and play good defense, you give yourself a chance to win consecutive ballgames, said Rays manager Kevin Cash.
Consider this, prior to Blake Snell’s pretty good 5-1/3 inning affair outing in the series finale on Sunday, Rays starters found themselves on a streak of 10 consecutive quality starts — totaling a 2.10 ERA and 2.86 FIP during that stretch. Juxtapose that with Kansas City, who posted a 4.78 ERA and 5.18 FIP over the same span.
Kevin Cash will Start Chris Archer (5-14, 4.42 ERA), Matt Moore (7-7, 4.08 ERA), Jake Odorizzi (5-5, 3.88 ERA), and Drew Smyly (3-11, 5.29 ERA) over the next four days. Ned Yost will counter with Duffy (6-1, 3.22 ERA), Yordano Ventura (6-9, 4.88 ERA), Edinson Volquez (8-9, 4.70 ERA), and Ian Kennedy (6-9, 4.23 ERA).
There’s a possibility that either Archer, Moore, Odorizzi, or to a lesser extent Smyly, could be dealt before Monday’s 4:00 PM MLB trade deadline. Both Archer and Moore have been mentioned as possibilities for the Los Angeles Dodgers, though the price would be expensive to pry an All-Star pitcher from Tampa Bay. That is to say the situation is fluid, and the pitching probables are subject to change.
Rays Series Starters
Archer allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits over seven innings against the Dodgers on Tuesday, striking out eight and walking none. The righty has demonstrated good control of late, walking two or fewer batters in each of his last four starts after doing so just four times in his previous 11 outings.
Moore allowed one unearned run on four hits and four walks over 6-2/3 innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday, striking out five. The southpaw got back to his early season form in the month of July, going 3-2 with a 2.44 ERA — his best ERA of any month this season.
Odorizzi fired 6-2/3 scoreless innings in Friday’s 5-1 victory against the Yankees, scattering six hits while striking out five. The righty threw 71 of his 104 pitches for strikes (68% strike ratio) while inducing 13 whiffs. Odorizzi hasn’t given up a run in the last two starts (a span of 14-2/3 innings), while only surrendering two earned runs over the 20-2/3 innings. It’s easily Odorizzi’s best stretch of pitching this season.
Smyly allowed two earned runs on four hits and a walk over six innings in a 6-3 win over the Yankees on Saturday, striking out six. The southpaw now has collected two straight quality starts and may finally be figuring things out in 2016, this after struggling through the worst season of his career. Smyly has given up just three earned runs over 12 frames spanning his last two trips to the mound. The win Saturday was his first since May 16 against Toronto.
Royals Series Starters
Duffy allowed three runs in six innings of a no-decision against the Angels on Wednesday. He struck out five and allowed seven hits and two walks. Duffy’s quietly piled up the quality starts lately, notching five in his last six games. Be that as it may, not all of his starts have been impressive; Duffy can thank his team for keeping him without a loss since June 6th. In Kansas City’s last 25 games, the Royals are 5-0 when Danny Duffy (who takes the mound in the series opener) starts and 2-18 when he doesn’t. The righty allowed three runs on seven hits (including a homer) against the Rays back on the first of June. Key matchups: Curt Casali (1-2, HR, RBI), Logan Forsythe (2-3), Brandon Guyer (3-5, HR, RBI), Evan Longoria (3-7, 2B, RBI, BB), Brad Miller (3-10, 3B, 2 RBI), Steve Pearce (1-4)
Ventura threw an eight-inning complete game against Texas on Thursday, surrendering three runs on four hits and a walk, while striking out six. The righty gave up three solo shots and just one other hit, but that was just enough to lose with Cole Hamels on the mound for the Rangers. It was the first complete game of Ventura’s MLB career, and it came after he failed to finish six innings in three of the five starts prior to Thursday’s start. Ventura’s already set a career worst 17 homers allowed this year, which could bode well for the home run hitting Rays. Key matchups: Brandon Guyer (1-3), Kevin Kiermaier (2-3, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (2-7)
Volquez pitched six innings of six run (five earned) baseball, allowing nine hits and two walks while striking out five. The right hander has allowed four or more runs for the ninth time 22 starts this season. Volquez has cobbled together consecutive wins just once since April 21, and his 4.56 ERA and 1.39 WHIP isn’t what one would call sparking. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (3-8, 2 2B, RBI, BB), Brandon Guyer (1-4, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-8), Evan Longoria (5-15, 2B, 3 RBI)
Kennedy surrendered one run over seven innings versus the Rangers on Saturday. He walked none and struck out six. Despite a few solid outings this month, Kennedy will finish July with an 0-3 record. Saturday marked just the fourth time this season (21 starts) in which the righty completed seven innings, and it was his first walk-free outing since 2015. In his start against Tampa Bay on May 30th, Kennedy allowed just one run on three hits and five walks over six innings. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (4-12), Brad Miller (3-4, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB)