Following their nine-game road trip through the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays return to the friendly confines of the Trop where they will welcome in the Kansas City Royals for a four-game series, starting Monday. The Rays salvaged the series against the Red Sox on the back of a two-hit, 2-0 shutout, while the Royals dropped two-of-three against the White Sox.
Tampa Bay started its most recent jaunt on a high note, taking two-of-three from each of the Blue Jays and Yankees. Yet, as one would expect, the Red Sox were a different beast, and the Rays dropped the first two games of the series before salvaging the series finale. Still, when all was said and done, they walked away with a winning road trip and momentum going into this four-game series with Kansas City.
The Royals, on the other hand, charged out the gate by sweeping the Twins following the All-Star Break, yet they have lost each of the eight subsequent series since. In fact, since the aforementioned sweep of Minnesota, Kansas City has won at least two consecutive games only once — July 31 – August 1 against the White Sox.
The Rays continue to hang around — starting the series at 63-61 and as fringe contenders in the Wildcard race — and continue to play plus .500 baseball. What’s more, Tampa Bay has outscored Kansas City by a +57 run differential, while the Royals have the worst club ERA in all of baseball at 5.29 (compare that to the Rays, who have the 10th best ERA in baseball at 3.80). All this is to say that the Rays should, in the very least, win the series which would allow them to gain anywhere between two-and-four games of separation in the win/loss columns.
Tampa Bay swept Kansas City at Kauffman stadium between May 14 – 16, limiting the Royals to just nine-runs total.
Kevin Cash will open the series with Ryne Stanek (1-3, 2.74 ERA), who likely will be followed by Ryan Yarbrough (11-5, 4.01 ERA). Blake Snell (14-5, 2.10 ERA), Yonny Chirinos (1-5, 3.96 ERA), and Tyler Glasnow (1-3, 4.10 ERA) should also see extensive mound time throughout the series. Ned Yost will likely counter with Jorge López (0-2, 4.44 ERA), Glenn Sparkman (0-0, 4.50 ERA), Jakob Junis (6-11, 4.76 ERA), and Brad Keller (5-4, 3.69 ERA).
Ryne Stanek was wild during opening duty on Friday in Boston, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk after being staked to a three-run lead in the top of the first. He needed 32 pitches (17 strikes, 53% strike rate) to make it through the six batters he faced over one inning of work. While the Red Sox are famous for working good at-bats, the high pitch count had more to do with a lapse of fastball command.
Ryan Yarbrough tossed four scoreless innings during the Rays’ 6-1 win over the Yankees. He allowed two hits and no walks and struck out three. After posting a 7.23 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in his first four post-All-Star Break outings, Yarbrough has righted the ship over past two appearances, notching six shutout frames while giving up three hits and issuing no walks.
Jorge López allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out three over 4-2/3 innings against Toronto. It was a tough first start with a new club for Lopez, as he allowed three extra-base hits, including a Curtis Granderson grand slam in the fourth inning. The right-hander had made just two career starts in the big leagues before Wednesday and only started in two of his 26 appearances at the Triple-A level this season. He has relied primarily on a hard 82 mph 12/6 curveball, a 95 mph four-seam fastball with natural sinking action, and a whiffy 95 mph sinker, while also mixing in an 88 mph changeup with arm side fade and some natural sink and an 88 mph 12/6 slider.
Blake Snell tossed five scoreless frames and earned the victory against the Yankees, allowing just two hits and a walk while fanning six batters. Snell is now 2-0 in three starts since returning from the DL with a shoulder injury. During those three outings, the southpaw has allowed just one run across 14 innings with a nice 5/1 K/BB. Snell was on a pitch count Thursday and ended his start with 76 pitches, a big increase from the 47 he threw in his last appearance. His leash should be extended Tuesday.
Glenn Sparkman allowed two runs on four hits and a walk over four innings work on Thursday. He struck out three. Sparkman typically would have gone out for the fifth inning, but Thursday was the first time he reached the 75-pitch mark since a start for Triple-A Omaha on July 3. The 26-year-old has a 4.95 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over 20 innings with Kansas City this season. He has relied primarily on a 95 mph four-seam fastball and an 87 mph 12/6 slider with surprisingly little depth, while also mixing in a firm 86 mph changeup with a ton of backspin.
Yonny Chirinos was the pitcher of record in Friday’s 7-3 loss to the Red Sox, as he got tagged for five runs on nine hits and a walk over six innings of work while striking out one. Chirinos was only able to limit damage for a couple of innings before the floodgates opened. The 24-year-old had been sharp in his prior two appearances against the sad-sack Orioles and White Sox, but the Red Sox offense proved to be too much for him to handle, tagging him for runs in four of his six innings of work.
Jakob Junis gave up two runs on five hits across 5-1/3 innings Friday, striking out five and walking three. Junis pitched well enough for the win but was let down by the Royals bullpen, which relinquished seven runs in the seventh inning. Junis is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP over his last four starts, while recording 26 strikeouts across 22 innings. In spite of that, the right-hander has a 4.76 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP, but a 3.18 K/BB in 132-1/3 innings. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in two career appearances (one start) against the Rays, totaling 6-1/3 innings of work. Key Matchups: Kevin Kiermaier (1-3, BB)
Tyler Glasnow put the Rays in an early four-run hole on Saturday, struggling through a 28-pitch first inning.
Yet after allowing four runs on back-to-back doubles, three consecutive walks, two steals and a Jake Bauers throwing error, Glasnow settled in and worked impressively into the seventh. The right-hander retired his final 12 batters, and 17 of his last 18 overall, following J.D. Martinez’s majors-most 38th homer in the third inning.
In his fourth outing since coming to Tampa Bay, Glasnow worked a career-high 6-2/3 innings, allowing three hits and three walks, striking out four on 94 pitches (50 strikes, 53% strike rate, 15/25 first-pitch strikes).
Glasnow didn’t have his best stuff, with only his fastball as the most reliable offering.
I just kind of realized this is what I had today and just go out and compete as hard as I can and get out of that fix-it mode. I went out after the first and did what I had to do, Glasnow said. In Pittsburgh things like that would happen and I wasn’t able to go out and complete the day so I’m definitely happy with going back out after the first and getting through 6-2/3.
Brad Keller gave up one run on seven hits and zero walks while striking out five over five innings on Saturday. Keller wasn’t efficient, needing 94 pitches to get through five, although he was effective, with the lone blemish being a solo homer allowed to Nicky Delmonico. The ‘pen closed things out with four scoreless innings. Keller’s 1.68 K/BB this season is ugly, but he’s done a good job of keeping the ball in the yard (five homers allowed across 100-1/3 innings). The right-hander has faced the Rays once, a one inning relief appearance in May. This season Keller has relied primarily on a 95 mph worm-killer four-seam fastball, an 86 mph slider and a 94 mph sinker that features natural sink but surprisingly very little arm side run.