The long stretch until the end of the season — AKA the Tampa Bay Rays miracle run — begins Friday, when the Baltimore Orioles travel to St. Petersburg for a three game series.
While the Rays are mired in a 3-25 stretch, the Orioles, who sit at the top of the AL East, have gone 4-6 over their last 10 games, including a four-game victimization/sweep by the Seattle Mariners. Be that as it may, I won’t cherry pick statistics to demonstrate why Tampa Bay, some how…some way, will eke out a series win. Why? Because if we’ve learned anything from this ugly stretch of play, it’s that the Rays have regressed back to the Devil Rays.
Sure, it would be phenomenal for the team to snap out of this funk, and to be honest, it’s not like they don’t have the capability to do so. Besides the Rays are now closer to full strength with the re-addition of Kevin Kiermaier, as well as the additions of Kevin Jepsen and Luke Maile, who will take the place of Hank Conger on the active roster.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 15, 2016
Then again, the team has been…uhh, rather surprising all season, so make your own inference.
Kevin Cash will throw Chris Archer (4-12, 4.66 ERA), Matt Moore (5-6, 4.46 ERA), and Jake Odorizzi (3-5, 4.47 ERA) over the next three days. Buck Showalter will counter with Yovani Gallardo (3-1, 5.82 ERA), Chris Tillman (12-2, 3.41 ERA), and a player to be named ahead of Sunday’s contest.
Rays Series Starters
Archer dished up five earned runs on seven hits and two walks in a loss to the Red Sox on Friday. He struck out just three. Archer fell behind frequently, a recipe for disaster against any lineup. He was able to notch only nine (of 26) first-pitch strikes and coaxed 10 whiffs on 116 pitches. Archer is one loss away from equaling his career-high mark set last season, while his four wins currently rank as his lowest total since 2012 when he fired only 29-1/3 innings. Archer told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) the answer to his extensive first-inning struggles is internal:
It’s not that I need to warm up more or warm up less, it’s just a matter of whenever I’m on the mound of attacking hitters.
Moore allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits and three walks while striking out four over six innings against Boston last Saturday. The southpaw gave up a pair of runs in both the fourth and fifth innings, and the Rays’ offense failed to offer him any support, leading to his sixth loss of the season. He’s held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in five of his last six starts, allowing him to lower his ERA to 4.46.
Odorizzi gave up four runs on six hits and a walk over five innings last Sunday, while fanning only four. Jake wasn’t sharp, throwing 52 of 86 pitches for strikes (60% K%; six whiffs), although with David Price dealing for the Red Sox, Odorizzi would have had to match him pitch-for-pitch for a shot at a win. He’s put together just one quality start over his last six starts, and added a full run to his ERA (4.47) heading into the All-Star Break.
Orioles Series Starters
Gallardo allowed two runs on six hits and four walks, while striking out two in a five inning no decision against the Angels on Saturday. Gallardo shut down the Angels for five innings, yet allowed a pair of runs in the sixth inning, leaving the game with a one run deficit. The righty has fired just one quality start in his nine outings this season, and his ERA sits at 5.82. Gallardo allowed three runs on seven hits (including a homer) over 5-1/3 innings against the Rays on June 24. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (4-6, 2B, HR, 4 RBI), Logan Forsythe (4-13, 2B), Desmond Jennings (2-8, 3B), Kevin Kiermaier (3-7, 2B, RBI, BB), Brad Miller (2-8, 2B, 3B)
Tillman was good over seven innings on Sunday, allowing just one run on three hits. He, however, walked five batters. His record is superb, although Tillman’s wobbled a bit lately — posting a 5.02 ERA and a 1.33 K/BB over his last five starts. The Rays tagged him for six runs on 10 hits (including a homer) and two walks over five innings on June 25. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-4, RBI, BB), Logan Forsythe (9-28, 3 2B, RBI, BB), Brandon Guyer (3-11), Evan Longoria (17-57, 4 2B, 7 HR, 10 RBI, 5 BB), Logan Morrison (5-11, 2B, RBI, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (4-16, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB)
At the time of his expected activation, Maile was hitting .345 with six doubles and two homers in 17 games with Triple-A Durham since June 21. He also caught 12 of 38 attempted base stealers (31.6%) this season.
I’ve just been trying to be myself, Maile told the Times. There’s been some times when I’ve tried to do a little bit too much.
— Alex Cobb (Tommy John surgery) threw a bullpen session at Tropicana Field on Thursday with no apparent issues. Because he left his previous rehab start after one inning and 27 pitches due to fatigue, Cobb will get an extra day of rest before his next scheduled start.
— Steve Pearce (hamstring) worked out on Thursday and ran the bases, saying he felt very good. He plans to start a rehab assignment this weekend and is slated to rejoin the team next week.
— Brad Boxberger (oblique) is scheduled to throw another bullpen session Friday, but will need an extended rehab before he can return to the fold.
— Desmond Jennings (hamstring) and Mikie Mahtook (broken left hand) are still working out.