The Rays, who took two of three from the Angels last week, are 1-1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East despite having 12 players on the disabled list. Anaheim has dropped five consecutive games, yielding 34 runs in that span, after winning five in a row while surrendering 13. Albert Pujols remained hot during the Angels’ up-and-down stretch, belting seven homers in 10 games to move into 17th place on baseball’s all-time list with 535 — one behind Mickey Mantle.
Evan Longoria, who sat out the final two games against the Mariners, went an ice cold 6-34 in his last eight games, driving in two while scoring three. Meanwhile the man to his left, Asdrubal Cabrera, was also idled Sunday with a hyperextended right elbow. He too has performed at a gelid pace over the last nine games, going 5-35 while striking out six times. To put it bluntly, even though Joey Butler is 14-35 in his last nine games, and Jake Elmore went 5-12 against the Mariners, the run producers in the Rays lineup (Longo, Cabrera, et al) need to step to the literal and proverbial plate and offer some run support to Nathan Karns, Erasmo Ramirez, and whoever is taking the mound Thursday.
It will be interesting to see if Rays manager Kevin Cash frees Karns and Ramirez from their shackles, and allows them to pitch deeper. For the former, Karns allowed four runs on five hits (two homers) over five innings last week against the Angels. That outing snapped a six-game streak in which he limited opponents to two runs or fewer. As for latter, Ramirez held his former team to one run and seven hits in 5-1/3 innings of work on Thursday. He was pulled from the game after throwing only 72 pitches (under 14 pitches per inning). As I wrote previously, it is incumbent upon the other starters to pitch deeper into games for obvious reasons.Matt Shoemaker: Shoemaker (3-4, 5.08 ERA) has posted just one victory in his last eight starts, although he’s allowed just three runs or fewer five times in that span. The 28 year-old righty gave up three earned runs in 11 combined innings (in two wins) against Tampa Bay last season, going 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. With the exception of ERA, both Shoemaker and Karns have put up similar numbers over the last 14 days. Shoemaker’s sinker/splitter mix is potent, and what he lacks in velocity is made up for with his craftiness against impatient hitters. Key matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera (1-4), David DeJesus (1-3, 2B).
Jered Weaver: Weaver (4-5, 4.60 ERA) allowed seven runs on nine hits over 5-2/3 innings on Friday night. The pummeling broke a string of five consecutive quality starts, although he did allow a good number of hard hit balls in that stretch. The 32 year-old righty works with a mid-80s fastball and relies on command and keeping hitters off balance. Thanks to his severely depleted repertoire, Weaver has been forced to become a wily veteran. Key matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera (12-40, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2BB), David DeJesus (12-46, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB), Logan Forsythe (2-6, 2B), Evan Longoria (5-17, 3 2B, 2 BB).
Garrett Richards: Richards (5-4, 4.14 ERA) lasted just 2/3 of an inning while allowing six runs on five hits against the Yankees on Saturday — this after taking a loss to the Rays on June first. The righty told the media he felt fine before entering the game Saturday, although he is showing regression from the dominant form he displayed in 2014. Richards’ K% has declined, his BB% has increased, and he’s allowed a homer in each of his last four starts after allowing just five all of last season. Key matchups: Joey Butler (1-3, RBI), David DeJesus (2-6, 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-3, 2B), Rene Rivera (1-2, BB).
— The Rays are 33-26 against the Angels since 2008 (14-10 at home).
— Karns leads major-league rookies in ERA and opponents’ average (.202).
— Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash unveiled his new way to provide multiple injury updates. “Just kidding on the no further comment,” writes Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times).
— Desmond Jennings will have his knee scoped tomorrow in Colorado. Cash told the media that there is no new diagnosis on his knee and the scope is exploratory. The best case scenario for his return, assuming nothing new is found is three to four weeks, although Cash said that time table is not likely.
— Brad Boxberger is available to pitch writes Matt Baker (Tampa Bay Times).
— Now for more positive injury news, John Jaso took ground-balls and fly-balls at the Trop on Tuesday afternoon, and Tim Beckham tested his hamstring by taking grounders.
— Mike Trout is just 3-18 in his last five games, however, all three hits were homers.