Jawbreaker, the relatively famous melodic punk band from the 90’s, coined the phrase, “When it pains it roars.” I could be wrong, but I believe Blake, the former singer and guitarist of Jawbreaker, was referring to the Rays with his Nostradamus like prophecy. After all, the pain really is roaring at the moment following their three-game sweep at the hands A’s — a series in which Tampa Bay scored all of five runs (a 1.6 run per game average), converting only 19% of RISP situations. Mind you too, prior to their most recent — ill fated — series, the Rays came off a lackluster series against the Angels — who they’re facing this week. Tampa Bay wasn’t much better in their last series against the Angels, taking only one game while averaging three runs per game.
The Rays website features a section where you can reserve your 2014 season tickets, subsequently locking you in for the postseason ticket lottery. However, Tampa Bay has lost seven of its last eight games while playing very un-postseason like baseball. The defense was spotty at best in the series finale against the A’s, and the offense had a hard time of stringing together any runs over the course of the series. A 5-1 loss really wasn’t the best way to start September — a month they traditionally excel in — after an August where they won only 11 games, averaging only 3.42 runs per game. There is hope; The Rays are taking on a pair of sub .500 teams over the next seven days. And hopefully they won’t take the next seven games for granted — Tampa Bay is 3-3 against the Angels and Mariners this season.
Garrett Richards: Per Rotowire, “Richards lasted only 3.1 innings and took the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits Wednesday against the Rays.” Fangraphs notes, “Richards has not been able to actually, you know, strike guys out. This despite a good swinging strike rate (10%). Maybe it’s the fact that he’s primarily a fastball/slider guy — lefties had a .389 wOBA against Richards last season.” Key match-ups: David DeJesus (2-2, 2B, RBI, BB), Yunel Escobar (2-4, HR, 2 RBI), Desmond Jennings (1-2), Kelly Johnson (2-3, 2B, 3B, RBI, BB), Jose Lobaton (1-1, BB), Ben Zobrist (2-3, RBI).
Jason Vargas: Per Rotowire, “Vargas was sharp Thursday, pitching seven innings and allowing two hits and no runs while striking out seven in a win against the Rays.” Vargas demoralized the Rays last week on his well located fastball, change-up, and curveball. Can Tampa Bay regroup from that outing, and put some numbers on the board? Key match-ups: Jose Lobaton (2-6), James Loney (2-5, RBI), Jose Molina (3-5, 2B, BB), Delmon Young (5-15, RBI, BB), Ben Zobrist (8-20, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB).
Jered Weaver: Per Rotowire, “Weaver picked up his ninth win of the season Friday, as he did not allow a run in six innings against the Brewers.” Tampa Bay is, surprisingly, 2-1 against Weaver over the last three seasons, accruing a 5.18 ERA in four outings. Furthermore, a good number of players on the roster have put up great numbers against the Angels RHP. Attributed to back problems, Weaver’s fastball and sinker velocity have steadily decreased over the last three seasons. Because of it, Weaver has had some pretty inconsistent starts in 2013. Key match-ups: David DeJesus (11-39, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB), Yunel Escobar (3-5, 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Desmond Jennings (1-3, 2B, RBI), James Loney (9-26, 2 2B, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (4-10, 3 2B, BB), Jose Molina (4-10, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Sean Rodriguez (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Luke Scott (1-3), Delmon Young (4-15, HR, 2 RBI), Ben Zobrist (5-15, 2B, 3B, HR, 4 RBI, BB).
Jerome Williams: The journeyman pitcher has reinvented himself, becoming a ground ball specialist of sorts. He won’t blow you away with incredible velocity, however Williams can hurt you if he keeps the ball down. He is apt to leave the ball in hittable locations, so hopefully the Rays can force a mistake. Key match-ups: Kelly Johnson (8-19, RBI, 2 BB), Matt Joyce (3-6, 2B, HR, RBI, BB).
- Los Angeles has lost four straight in Anaheim and has one win in its last 10 games there.
- Yunel Escobar is batting .389 in 21 career games against Los Angeles, his best against any opponent, and is 15 for 35 (.429) during a 10-game hit streak versus the Angels.
- Ben Zobrist is batting .385 during an 11-game hit streak against Los Angeles and had two hits off Richards on Wednesday.
- Maddon has set the rotation for the next nine games: Monday Chris Archer, Tuesday Matt Moore, Wednesday Odorizzi/Hellickson/Hernandez, Thursday David Price, Friday Alex Cobb, Saturday Chris Archer, Sunday Matt Moore, Tuesday Price, Wednesday Cobb, and Thursday Archer.
- Cliff Concoran of Sports Illustrated asserts, “…It’s very possible the Rays recent slump and the Red Sox concurrent surge marks the moment that the 2013 Red Sox iced the AL East title.” Now’s not the time to blow it, Rays.
- FWIW, the Rays the A’s split the season series, so if a tiebreaker was needed for the wildcard game home field, it would be the records within their divisions.
We’ll post more shortly.