The Tampa Bay Rays emerged from an extended skid to score 21 runs in back-to-back victories and their first series win of the second-half. They will strive to maintain their bourgeoning hot streak on Thursday, when the Rays open a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
Tampa Bay lost 13 of the previous 15 games before the 25 run offensive outburst at Coors Field. In the series finale Wednesday afternoon, the much maligned Tim Beckham — who batted .213 and was 2-for-24 since mid-June — went a career-best 5-for-5 in the 11-3 throttling of the Rockies. Evan Longoria has also collected four consecutive two-hit outings, including three homers, two triples, two doubles and seven RBI over that stretch.
Oakland has won four of six post All-Star Break games despite losing 7-0 to Houston on Wednesday. Josh Reddick went 5-for-10 with two RBI in the three-game series against the Astros.
Kevin Cash will send Matt Moore (5-7, 4.33 ERA), Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.39 ERA), Drew Smyly (2-11, 5.64 ERA), and Blake Snell (2-4, 3.11 ERA) to the mound over the next four games. Bob Melvin will counter with Sonny Gray (4-8, 5.12 ERA), Sean Manaea (3-5, 5.13 ERA), Kendall Gravman (6-6, 4.25 ERA), and a player to be named before the series finale on Sunday.
Rays Series Starters
— Moore allowed two earned runs on five hits and a walk over 7-1/3 innings, in a hard-luck 2-1 loss against the Orioles on Saturday. Pitching to contact, Moore recorded just one strikeout. The southpaw posted his fourth consecutive quality start, and turned in his longest outing of the season in the process. Moore, in the midst of a terrific run of starts since late June, demonstrated superior control while throwing an efficient 93 pitches over his time on the mound.
— Odorizzi allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk over six innings Sunday, striking out seven. He picked up the win over the Orioles in his first quality start since June 19 (the seventh of the season in 20 starts). Attacking Baltimore’s hitters — and throwing 65 of 100 pitches for strikes — Odorizzi coaxed 17 swinging strikes, while his only gaffe was a homer toff the bat of Pedro Alvarez. It should be noted, homers have been his Achilles heel this season.
— In spite of his ongoing struggles, Smyly will remain in the starting rotation. The lefty now sports an ugly record and gaudy ERA that is the highest among all pitchers who’ve thrown at least 90 innings this season. Still, Smyly is not a candidate for demotion according to Cash.
Actually we talked to Drew (Tuesday), checked in, we had a good conversation, Cash told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times). Drew is trying to work through this. He knows he’s in a funk. At different parts of the season, I think different things have kind of left him, different pitches that he hasn’t been able to find. … We’re excited to get his work in and to see him back out there Saturday in Oakland.
— Snell surrendered only one hit and three walks, while fanning nine, over six scoreless innings of a win against the Rockies on Tuesday. It was the best start of Snell’s young Major League career, as he collected a new career high in strikeouts and posted his first big league shutout. Snellzilla was nasty, inducing 16 whiffs on 96 pitches, while dominating the Rockies at Coors Field — an impressive feat for a rookie.
Athletics Series Starters
— Gray gave up three earned runs on six hits and four walks over six innings, in a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. He struck out two. The righty has collected four quality starts over his last five appearances, although the victory Saturday was his first. He continued to struggle with his control — as evidenced by four walks for the second consecutive start — although he avoided trouble against the Blue Jays potent lineup. In his last start against the Rays, Gray allowed six runs (three earned) on six hits, including three homers, over 5-2/3 innings. Key matchups: Oswaldo Arcia (2-5, HR, 4 RBI), Logan Forsythe (2-5, HR, RBI), Brandon Guyer (2 HR, 5 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (3-10, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (5-17, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB)
— Manaea’s last outing came in an emergency relief role, throwing five strong innings on Sunday after Rich Hill and Andrew Triggs were injured. Manaea struck out six across seven shutout innings. He’s now allowed just two runs or fewer in four of his past five outings. This season the 24 year-old lefty has relied primarily on his 93 mph four-seam fastball with good sink and run, and an 86 mph changeup with good depth. He’s also mixed in a whiffy 81 mph slider.
— Graveman relinquished three runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts over seven innings on Monday. The 25 year-old righty has collected three straight quality starts for the first time all season. The homer he allowed was his first in five starts, and he appears to be starting to avoid those big mistakes that plagued him through the first two months of 2016 when he allowed 12 homers in his first 13 starts — a big reason for his 4.87 ERA at the start of the season. He owns a sharp 2.97 ERA and 1.14 WHIP since, although it’s thought his level of performance might not be viable over the long-term (his 4.0 K/9 speaks to that). Graveman allowed four runs on six hits, including a homer, over 5-2/3 innings against the Rays on May 14th. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (1-3, 3B), Logan Forsythe (1-4, 2B, RBI), Brandon Guyer (2-5, 2B), Brad Miller (2-7, HR, 2 RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (1-4, 2B, 2 BB)
— Oakland took two of three games from the Rays at the Trop from May 13-15.
— Steve Pearce has driven in multiple runs in each of the two games he’s played since his return from the disabled list on Tuesday.
— Evan Longoria now has 50 extra-base hits after hitting two doubles, two triples, and three homers in the last four games. Longo is on a pace for a franchise record 86 extra-base hits to go along with a projected 38 homers, and 93 RBI.
— If you’re keeping track, Tampa Bay now must go 49-19 (.720 baseball) from here on out for the Rays to have a shot at an AL wildcard berth.