The Los Angeles Dodgers head east to take on the Tampa Bay Rays in an unusual two game, interleague series at Tropicana Field. They play Tuesday and Wednesday before the Rays head west to take on the Angels.
The Rays are coming off a disappointing series loss against the Toronto Blue Jays, capped by a 5-1 loss in the finale on Sunday. As Jason Hanselman (The Process Report) points out, Rays pitching has been pretty good, while the offense…not so much.
Rays starters allowed nine earned runs and held opposing hitters to a .155 average on the week (4/25 – 5/1), yet the team was only able to split its six games because the offense did not produce runs. The team batting average, at .221, is the lowest in baseball, and the Rays went 4-for-38 with runners in scoring position this past week.
That includes 3-for-21 wRISP against Toronto.
Still, Tampa Bay has been a great interleague team, going 21-8 dating back to 2015. Meanwhile Los Angeles has gone 2-6 over its last eight games. The Dodgers aren’t playing the best baseball right now and had to be rescued by Clayton Kershaw on Sunday to halt a six-game losing skid.
The series also marks the return of four pivotal names from Rays past: former ace Scott Kazmir, OF Carl Crawford, LHP JP Howell and baseball operations president Andrew Friedman. Kazmir was acquired in a 2004 trade and started the first World Series game for Tampa Bay in 2008. Crawford was a crucial player in the outfield from 2002-10 before he sought greener pastures with the Red Sox. Howell played for the Rays from 2006-12, and this marks his first trip back to Tropicana Field in four years. Friedman Spent 11 years with the team and is credited as being the architect of the Rays transformation as executive VP.
Rays skipper Kevin Cash will throw Matt Moore (1-2, 3.66 ERA) and Drew Smyly (1-3, 2.60 ERA) over the next couple of days.
Moore has allowed four homers this season, accounting for nine of the 13 runs he’s allowed. Since late last season, the lefty has gone at least six innings in eight of his past nine starts, including four consecutive outings. Somehow lefties are hitting .318 against Moore, while righties are batting a paltry .194.
Smyly undoubtedly has been the Rays’ best starter this season, even if he has little to show for his efforts. He ranks among the AL leaders in strikeouts, which he attributes to getting ahead of opposing batters. Due to his deceptive over the top delivery, Smyly’s pitches get on hitters quicker and appear to move faster than the radar gun might indicate.
Scott Kazmir (1-2, 5.76 ERA) got his first quality start since his season debut on Wednesday, allowing two earned runs in six innings while fanning six. This will be his third start at the Trop since his August 2009 trade. Overall, Kazmir is 1-4, 5.13 in five starts against Tampa Bay. In 2016, he has relied primarily on his 91 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in a 76 mph changeup, 91 mph sinker, 87 mph cutter and 80 mph slider. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (2-6, 3B, HR, 3 RBI), Hank Conger (1-4, BB), Brandon Guyer (3-6), Evan Longoria (4-14, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Steve Pearce (2-3, 2B)
After making mechanical adjustments, Alex Wood (1-2, 4.82 ERA) allowed one run on five hits and one walk while striking out nine over seven innings in a no-decision against the Padres on Friday. Wood, much like the Rays hurlers, only received a single run of offensive support. However, he’s been inconsistent so far, allowing at least five runs in three of his outings, but only one run in both of his other two starts. Relying primarily on his 91 mph sinker and 83 mph knuckle-curveball, while also mixing in an 85 mph circle change, has accrued a less than stellar 1.54 WHIP. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (1-3, 2B), Logan Morrison (1-4, RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (1-2, HR, RBI)
― The Dodgers are: 9-19 in their last 28 interleague road games vs. a team with a losing record, 2-6 in their last eight interleave games, and 0-4 in Kazmir’s last four starts. (Source: Winners and Whiners)
― The Rays are: 7-0 in their last seven Tuesday games, 21-8 in their last 29 interleague games, and 25-10 in their last 35 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600. (Source: Winners and Whiners)