The team with the second fewest number of runs scored the American League will meet the league’s worst pitching staff on Friday, when the Tampa Bay Rays begin a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics.
Tampa Bay averaged under four runs per game in Seattle in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mariners, while Oakland’s ERA/FIP ballooned to 4.97/4.55, allowing an ugly 56 runs during a five-game losing streak. And while the Rays didn’t as fare as well as they could have against the AL West leading Mariners, at least they didn’t allow 18 runs with two outs.
Tampa Bay had won a season-high four games in a row ― including a three-game sweep of the Angels ― before visiting Seattle. The series against the Mariners was winnable, although when you go 2-for-11 wRISP I’d imagine it’s rather hard to put tallies in the win column. Then again, with the exceptions of Erasmo Ramirez, Alex Colome, Xavier Cedeno and Enny Romero, no one in the bullpen has inspired much confidence ― especially with the game on the line. Consider that RHP Steve Geltz cost the team a pair of victories on Monday and Wednesday after he allowed a pair of critical homers to Seattle.
Still the Rays have hit 18 home runs in their last eight games (second only to Boston over that span) and owns a .454 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers. Steve Pearce, who’s homered four times in his last six games, is hitting .400 off lefties and Logan Forsythe .367.
The A’s have lost nine of 10 in May, allowing double-digit runs in four consecutive games. Oakland skipper Bob Melvin told reporters the team’s bullpen is “in disarray,” after the relief staff has slashed an ugly 8.05 ERA/5.82 FIP/.309 BA/.357 BABIP line over 38 total innings of work. They’ve been outscored by a whopping 51-18 margin over the last four, permitting 11 or more runs in each for the first time in franchise history, according to Stats LLC.
To blame everything on the bullpen would be unfair to say the least. Oakland’s beleaguered rotation produced a ghastly 8.40 ERA and .327 batting average against as the Athletics have dropped 14 of their last 18. In the prior series against Boston, the A’s became the first team to allow 13 or more runs in three consecutive games since the ChiSox (May 1999).
Kevin Cash will throw Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 3.10 ERA), Matt Andriese (1-0, 1.29) and Matt Moore (1-3, 4.83 ERA) over the next three days. Odorizzi has a 1.09 ERA in four starts at the Trop this season, and is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA in two career starts vs. Oakland. “Quicker outs” has become the right-hander’s mantra. Quick outs lead to a lower pitch count, which translates to going deeper into games. Andriese shut down the Angels over seven in a spot start on Sunday. There’s no word on how the righty will remain with the big league squad, nevertheless he will make this second start on Saturday. Moore is in a funk, which he has attributed his troubles with locating pitches and falling behind in the count. He is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two career starts against the Athletics.
Bob Melvin will counter with Rich Hill (4-3, 2.39 ERA), Kendall Graveman (1-4, 5.74 ERA) and Sonny Gray (3-4, 6.00 ERA).
Hill allowed just one run on two hits over 5-2/3 innings, while striking out five and walking three on Saturday. Hill has allowed two or fewer runs in four straight outings, collecting an 11.5 K/9 in 37-2/3 IP this season. This season he has relied primarily on a whiffy 91 mph four-seam fastball with slight arm side run, and a 76 mph curveball with sweeping glove-side movement and sharp depth. He’s also mixed in a 79 mph worm-burner of a slider with excellent depth. Key matchups: Desmond Jennings (1-1), Steve Pearce (2-8)
Graveman couldn’t make it through the third inning on Sunday, allowing six runs on five hits (including a career-high four homers) and three walks over 2-2/3 innings while striking out two. His abysmal outing sent his ERA soaring to 5.74, and after a solid beginning to the season, Graveman has now allowed 16 runs in just 13-2/3 innings…a loser of his last three starts. His repertoire consists of a 93 mph sinker and an 88 mph cutter, though he also mixes in a 79 mph curveball, an 85 mph changeup and a 93 mph four-seam fastball. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (1-4, 2B, BB), Brandon Guyer (1-2), Brad Miller (1-4)
Gray lasted just 3-2/3 innings on Monday, rocked to the tune of seven runs on eight hits. He walked and struck out two. The shelling was Gray’s third straight loss in a period in which his ERA/FIP has ballooned to 6.00/4.47. Over his past two outings, he has been tagged for 14 runs on 19 hits. Gray is a pitcher who’s depended upon a plus curveball since breaking into the league. However, according to FanGraphs, he hasn’t been able to throw his curveball for strikes, and it’s allowed the rest of the repertoire to get punished. Consider that he previously had a zone rate of 41% which has plummeted to 28%. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (2-5, HR, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (2-7, HR, 3 RBI)
― Corey Dickerson is batting .182 overall, but had three homers (including a grand slam on Wednesday) and eight RBI in the last six contests.
― Forsythe hopes to return from a two-game absence after being plunked on Monday.
― Oakland infielder Jed Lowrie (shin) and OF/1B Mark Canha (back) was placed on the DL Wednesday.
― Oakland OF Khris Davis went 5-13 with four RBI in the series with Boston.
― Late Thursday night the Rays completed a trade of RHP Jhan Marinez to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations.
Whatever the considerations were, the deal made sense since it was unlikely Marinez, who was DFA’d late last week, would have cleared waivers.