On Tuesday evening, the Tampa Bay Rays will start a two-game Interleague series against their in-state rivals, the Miami Marlins. The Rays are coming off a series loss against the Yankees, while the Marlins were swept in a rain-shortened, two-game series against the Mets.
Tampa Bay has to be careful. After getting off to a great start of the season, the Rays are a tepid 5-6 in May including the two games they just dropped at home to New York. It was just their second series loss of the season and oddly enough, both have come at Trop. They now lead the AL East by just a half a game over New York.
As Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) wrote, in their first 24 games, the Rays scored three or fewer runs seven times and two or less only three times. In their last 15, they’ve scored three or fewer runs nine times, and two or less seven. Related, for as good as their pitching has been, they are 5-11 when scoring three or less, 19-4 with more.
What’s more, they are hitting .237 wRISP (24th in the majors and .138 (25th) with the bases loaded.
We need to have some guys start swinging the bats a little better. Myself being at the top of that. We haven’t been able to generate offense as of late besides (Saturday). We have to get back to clicking on all cylinders and hopefully, we can do that in Miami come Tuesday.— Kevin Kiermaier
This is a huge series for the Rays because a couple of wins against the worst team in the league could help to stop the bleeding some. It is even more important that they take a couple of games in Miami since they have three games against the Yankees on the road this upcoming weekend, followed by two at home against the Dodgers and four on the road against Cleveland.
The Rays went an abysmal 2-4 against the Marlins in 2018, but are 6-3 in Interleague play this season.
Over the life of the series, Kevin Cash will lean on Charlie Morton (3-0, 2.64 ERA), and likely Jalen Beeks (2-0, 2.48 ERA), who will follow an opener in the series finale. Don Mattingly will respond with Caleb Smith (3-0, 2.11 ERA) and Jose Urena (1-5, 4.82 ERA).
Charlie Morton allowed two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and four walks over five innings on Wednesday. Morton left with a deficit, but the Rays were able to tie the game late and get Morton off the hook. The right-hander is putting together a strong start to the season, allowing more than two runs in just one of his eight starts. He does have a 4.3 BB/9, but opposing hitters are batting .208 overall, and he’s given up just two home runs. Morton is 3-0 with a 2.64 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 56 strikeouts across 44-1/3 innings this season. He is 6-4 with a 4.09 ERA over 12 career starts against the Marlins.
Caleb Smith allowed two earned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out 11 over 6-2/3 innings on Tuesday. Smith stumbled early — allowing an earned run in the first and third innings — but shut down the Cubs’ offense for the balance of his start. He also generated 15 called strikes and 20 swinging strikes. Smith has paired a 0.89 WHIP and 2.11 ERA with 56 strikeouts across 42-2/3 innings this season. He is 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in one career start against the Rays (3-1/3 innings of work). Smith relies primarily on a whiffy 93 mph four-seam fastball and a swing-and-miss 83 mph slider, while also mixing in an 83 mph — you guessed it, whiffy — changeup. Key Matchup: Guillermo Heredia (1-2, 2B, 2 RBI)
Jalen Beeks allowed one run on three hits over 3-1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday. He fanned three and walked none. The southpaw followed Ryne Stanek and continues to pitch well when utilized as a bulk reliever. With the loss of Tyler Glasnow to the IL, there is the potential for Beeks to temporarily join the starting rotation. He has a 2.48 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and a 2.9 K/BB across 21 innings to begin the season.
Jose Urena allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks while striking out three over seven innings on Wednesday. Urena allowed eight baserunners, although he was able to escape trouble most of the night. After giving four combined home runs in his last two starts, Urena kept the ball in the yard and generated 75% groundballs. He has a 1-5 record with a 4.82 ERA and 6.2 K/9 over eight starts this season. Urena is 0-0 with a 0.84 in seven games (one start) against the Rays. He relies primarily on a worm-killer 96 mph four-seam fastball with obvious tail and an 86 mph 12-6 slider while also mixing in a whiffy 91 mph changeup with slight arm-side fade. Key Matchups: Travis d’Arnaud (2-5, RBI, BB), Daniel Robertson (1-3)