Tampa Bay enters this upcoming series against the Blue Jays with a 25-17 record, eight games over .500 and two full games back of the Orioles. The Rays are 4-1 so far against the Blue Jays and will need to take at least two games from the Jays in order to march into Boston on a wave of momentum. To be honest, with 12 players on the DL, I have absolutely no clue how Boston is surging. However, Boston is 8-2 in their last 10 games as they prepare to take on the number one team in the AL East, the Orioles.
Jeremy Hellickson (4-0, 2.77 ERA) will take the mound for the Rays as they attempt to put an end to both their sloppy fieldwork, and their seeming inability to drive in runners in scoring position. Helly had a quality outing his last time on the mound, giving up only one run on five hits, while walking two, and striking out six, in six innings of work. He’s still cracked the 7-IP mark only twice this season, and we’re all well aware of his battles with efficiency and the inning to inning pitch count. Pitching coach, Jim Hickey, has mentioned on a few different occasions that Hellickson is at his best when he’s throwing 15-20 pitches per inning. One has to wonder if he’s trying to compensate for what has been some fairly sloppy play (by Rays standards) behind him. That’s a reasonable question to ask when you consider that Helly has a FIP of 4.78, 34 points higher than his 2011 season average. Then again, he’s one or two runs off of the mark where he was at this point last season with concerns to earned runs. Or maybe his early season fidgeting with a newly found cutter had more of an effect on his inning to inning efficiency.
Kyle Drabek (3-4, 3.30 ERA) takes the mound for the Blue Jays. Only six Rays have official at-bats against Drabek: Chris Gimenez (1-2, BB), Matt Joyce (0-2), Sean Rodriguez (1-3), Luke Scott (1-3), BJ Upton (0-3), and Ben Zobrist (1-2). They’re hitting a combined .200 BA against Drabek. I’m not certain if that’s a large enough sample size to say whether the Rays will be able to knock him all over the place or not.
Against righties, Drabek tends to pound the inside corner with an 88-95 MPH fastball. He also tends to pound the middle to the inside of the plate with his curveball. Conversely, he tends to pound the inside corner with his change-up and slider against lefties (see the pitch f/x below). From a purely numbers-only (runs, hits, homers, etc) perspective, Drabek is similar to Hellickson. Do what you will with that information.
Rays Starting Lineup (5/21/12):
Of note: see the “Of Injuries and Acquisitions” thread for updated information on Keppinger as well as the latest Rays acquisition.