Following the rare Friday off-day, the Tampa Bay Rays will play host to the Miami Marlins for a two-game set, starting Saturday. The Rays are coming off a three-game sweep of the Red Sox, while the Marlins dropped two-of-three to the Twins.
After dropping seven of 10 games against the Yankees, White Sox, and Red Sox after the All-Star Break, Tampa Bay bounced back to win six of their next seven, including four against the reigning World Series champs. Tampa Bay’s offense finally woke and has plated five or more runs in five consecutive games (an average of 8.4 runs per game).
The Rays typically struggle with situational productivity, however, over the last three series, they hit .300, .303, and .290 with runners in scoring position. That’s something they will try to continue against the low scoring Marlins.
Miami has performed to a 55 wRC+ over the last 14 days, and a -27.2 wRAA. Over the same stretch, the pitching staff maintained an overall 4.66 ERA and 4.68 FIP (5.75 ERA and 4.89 FIP for the starters, 2.86 ERA but a 4.33 FIP for the relievers). While Miami’s bullpen has been good, it certainly doesn’t help their cause that Sergio Romo, Zac Gallen, Nick Anderson, and Trevor Richards are no longer with the team. Anderson, who showed well on Thursday, and Richards were dealt to Tampa Bay at the deadline.
The Rays enter the series with sole possession of the second Wildcard spot, 1/2 game up on the Athletics, and are two games behind Cleveland for the top Wildcard spot. While not a must-win series per se, a series win would allow the Rays the maintain their position in the playoff chase, while also creating even more separation in the win and loss columns while the Yankees and the third-place Red Sox beat up on one another, in the Bronx.
The Rays are 2-0 in the Citrus Series, having shut out the Marlins over the previous two games (but only scoring five runs themselves in the process).
Over the next two days, Kevin Cash will likely through Jalen Beeks (5-1, 3.61 ERA) behind opener Diego Castillo (1-6, 3.73 ERA), and Yonny Chirinos (8-5, 3.70 ERA). Don Mattingly will counter with Elieser Hernandez (1-4, 4.93 ERA), and Caleb Smith (7-4, 3.43 ERA).
Diego Castillo worked as an opener last Friday for the first time this season and delivered a perfect first inning. The right-hander has a 3.73 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and a 2.47 K/BB across 41 innings and is 8-for-9 in save opportunities on the season.
Jalen Beeks allowed one run on four hits and two walks over four innings against the Blue Jays on Saturday. He struck out one. Beeks kept the Blue Jays scoreless over his first two innings as a bulk reliever, but he was nicked for a run in the sixth Brandon Drury’s RBI single. The left-hander bounced back to deliver a scoreless seventh inning before his exit after 73 pitches (42 strikes, 57% strike rate). Beeks has a 3.61 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and a 2.19 K/BB over 72-1/3 innings this season.
Elieser Hernandez allowed one run on three hits and two walks while striking out two over four innings against the Diamondbacks on Sunday. Hernandez was recently moved back into the starting rotation, and even though his outing lasted just four innings, he held Arizona to just one run. The 24-year-old maintains a 4.93 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP with 41 strikeouts over 38-1/3 innings this season. He relies primarily on a whiffy 91 mph four-seam fastball and a 79 mph slider that is below hitting speed and sweeps across the zone, while also mixing in an 82 mph changeup with some arm-side fade. Hernandez has held Tampa Bay scoreless in three relief innings extending back to 2018.
Yonny Chirinos allowed seven runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out four across four innings on Sunday against Toronto. The Blue Jays jumped on Chirinos for two runs in the second inning, two in the third, and three in the fifth, although the Rays offense put up 10 runs and ultimately win the ballgame. Chirinos uncharacteristically struggled with his command at times, firing 56 of 93 pitches for strikes (60% strike rate). Ideally, this is just a bump in the road for Chirinos, who owns a 3.70 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 106 punchouts across 121-2/3 innings this season.
Caleb Smith allowed four runs on four hits and a walk over seven innings on Monday, while striking out nine. Miami’s offense staked Smith to a big lead with a six-run second inning, and he made it hold up. The southpaw maintains a 3.43 ERA and a 3.84 K/BB through 97 innings. Over his career, Smith is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Jesus Aguilar (1-4), Ji-Man Choi (1-4), Avisail Garcia (1-2, HR, RBI), Guillermo Heredia (1-2, 2B, 2 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2)