The Tampa Bay Rays return home on the heels of a massively successful 9-1 road trip (a franchise-best for a road-trip) which included a pair of series sweeps against the Yankees and Red Sox. In doing so, Tampa Bay became the fifth team in MLB history to sweep a three-game series (or more) at Fenway Park and at Yankee Stadium on the same road trip, and the first team to do so since September 1990 (Oakland Athletics). They will play host to the Toronto Blue Jays, who are coming in for a four-game set after notching a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies.
The Rays enter the four-game set as the top team in the AL East by 1/2 game, eight-games over .500 on the season, and with a 99.2% chance of a playoff berth according to FanGraphs.
The Rays were able to limit New York to just 10 runs total over the life of their series, good for an average of 3.33 runs per game. Because of it, they were able to complete their third-ever sweep of a series of three or more games at Yankee Stadium. This season they’ve beaten the Yankees six times in seven tries, ensuring their first season-series win since 2014.
And though they hit just .090 with runners in scoring position against the Blue Jays in the previous series, the Rays bounced back against the Yankees to the tune of a .409 batting average wRISP. Tampa Bay was able to go yard and hit situationally, while also limiting the number of home runs they allowed. All told, the Rays hit six home runs to the Yankees’ four, accounting for 11 of their 20 total runs.
As for Toronto, they mounted a comeback in the second game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia on Thursday. The Blue Jays allowed seven runs to Philadelphia in the top of the first inning, yet a seven-run sixth inning propelled them to a 9-8 win. Hey Fernando Tatís Jr., if you’re reading this, who cares if you’re staked to a seven-run lead. Advantages can evaporate in an instant. Swing away, my friend!
Rowdy Tellez led the way in the come from behind win, going 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI, while Lourdes Gurriel Jr. also added three runs batted in. Toronto also won the first game of the doubleheader, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win, 3-2. Gurriel hit an RBI single in the seventh inning to drive in Teoscar Hernández and win the game.
Both teams have been productive over the last two weeks, however, the Rays offense has been a smidge more effective, outpacing the Blue Jays by 16% as it relates to wRC+, with a +14 run differential. Much like the Yankees, the Blue Jays tend to lean on the home run ball a little too much. If Tampa Bay can keep the ball in the yard, they should be able to collect a series win against Toronto in this, the third and final regular-season set against these AL East rivals.
Over the next four days, Kevin Cash will likely call on Ryan Yarbough (0-2, 4.13), Charlie Morton (1-1, 5.40 ERA), Blake Snell (2-0, 3.00 ERA), and Tyler Glasnow (0-2, 6.00 ERA). Charlie Montoyo is expected to counter with Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 5.23 ERA), Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-1, 3.46 ERA), a pitcher to be named before Sunday’s ball game, and Tanner Roark (2-1, 4.76 ERA).
Ryan Yarbrough allowed four hits while striking out two across three scoreless frames against Toronto on Saturday before the contest was suspended due to rain. Yarbrough wasn’t spotless in the performance — he stranded runners in scoring position in two of his three frames — yet the lefty managed to escape both jams and finish his three innings of work with a 1-0 lead. Yarbrough has been dominant against the Blue Jays, going 6-1 with a 2.00 ERA across 11 games and 45 innings of work.
Matt Shoemaker, like a petulant child, was ejected from Sunday’s game against the Rays when he argued about a pitch that was two baseballs off the plate. I guess a real-life pitch f/x box would’ve benefitted Shoemaker. I digress. He ultimately allowed three runs on three hits (including a home run) and one walk while punching out seven across four innings prior to the ejection. It had all the makings of another one of those games against the finesse pitcher. Shoemaker is 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA in four starts (23-2/3 IP) at Tropicana Field. Key Matchups: Not available at the moment.
Charlie Morton was pulled from an August 9 contest against the Yankees after just two innings due to a right shoulder injury. It is thought that he will be activated from the Injured List this weekend after a 13-day stint on the shelf. It, however, is not yet clear if he will pitch Saturday afternoon or not, although it would seem reasonable for him to get the start given that the Rays have yet to announce their pitching plans. Morton is 2-2 with a 3.23 ERA in seven starts (41-2/3 IP) against Toronto.
Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed one run on four hits across six innings of a 7-2 win over Baltimore. He struck out three. Ryu appears to have shaken off his early-season struggles, and the lefty has now turned in back-to-back quality starts while posting a 5:1 K:BB over those 12 innings. He allowed three runs on four hits and three walks over 4-2/3 innings against Tampa Bay on Opening Day. Key Matchups: Not available at the moment.
Blake Snell allowed three runs on four hits (two home runs) and two walks over five innings against the Yankees on Tuesday. He struck out three. Snell has yet to last longer than five innings in a start this season, although his last two outings have resembled vintage Snell, and he’s won both of them. He threw 46 pitches (26 strikes, 57% strike rate) in three scoreless frames against the Blue Jays on July 26. The southpaw has been good in his career against Toronto, going 4-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 12 starts (58-1/3 IP).
Tyler Glasnow got the start and tossed 5-2/3 innings, allowing two runs on two hits and three walks while punching out eight. Down by a pair in the third, New York answered when Luke Voit hit a two-out solo home run into the second deck in right in the third inning. Then in the sixth, Aaron Hicks lined a 1-0 pitch down the right-field line for a triple to lead off the sixth before Voit drew a free pass on a full count curveball. With runners on the corners, Gio Urshela hit a sacrifice fly to right, tying the game at two. Yet Glasnow struck out Mike Ford for the second out of the inning before he gave way to Ryan Thompson. All told, Glasnow threw 51 of 88 pitches for strikes (58% strike rate) while coaxing nine swinging strikes (18% whiff rate). While his strike and whiff rates weren’t eye-popping, the results speak for themselves.
Tanner Roark gave up two runs (one earned) on nine hits with five strikeouts and one walk over five innings against the Orioles. The right-hander certainly wasn’t at his best Wednesday given that he allowed 10 baserunners, although he benefited from Baltimore running into two outs at home plate. Roark has a 4.76 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, and a 15:10 K:BB across 17 innings (four starts) this season. Roark gave up three runs on four hits (including one homer) and four walks across four innings of work against the Rays on August 14. Still, he is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts (17 IP) against the Rays.