The Tampa Bay Rays will begin a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics when they square off at O.co Coliseum on Monday night. The Rays had won four straight games before losing the series finale in Los Angeles on Sunday, while the Athletics are coming off a three-game sweep of Cleveland.
The Rays could have extended their winning streak to five games, however, pitching mistakes here and there, two missed tags at the plate, and the fact that they left the bases loaded to end the game on Sunday found them on the losing side of the ledger. Still, they are holding down one of the two AL Wildcard spots, and still find themselves with sole possession of second place in the AL East by 1/2 game over the Yankees. Logan Morrison has homered in two straight games, while Evan Longoria has hit safely in nine consecutive contests — going 13-33 with seven RBI over that stretch.
The Athletics haven’t played like a last-place team of late, as they’ve won seven of their last nine games overall after they swept the AL Central-leading team from Cleveland. Oakland plated 17 runs over the span of the three-game series, which extended the team’s home winning streak to five games. However, the Athletics have won four or more consecutive games just three times this season, so the odds are against them in that respect.
Tampa Bay is 9-2-1 in its last 12 series against the AL West, while Oakland is 4-1 over its last five home games, and 13-6 in the Athletics’ last 19 games against teams with winning records.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will lean on Jake Odorizzi (5-4, 4.63 ERA, 5.68 FIP), Blake Snell (0-5, 4.85 ERA, 5.12 FIP), and Jacob Faria (4-0, 2.00 ERA, 3.48 FIP). Bob Melvin will counter with Daniel Gossett (1-4, 6.23 ERA, 5.75 FIP), Chris Smith (0-0, 4.50 ERA, 4.48 FIP), Sonny Gray (5-4, 3.72 ERA, 3.46 FIP).
Odorizzi continues to struggle, as he surrendered seven earned runs over 4-1/3 innings in his last start before the All-Star Break. The right-hander has allowed at least three runs in seven consecutive starts, with a 6.69 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 31/16 K/BB and 2.8 HR/9 in 35 innings over that stretch. Over the break, Odorizzi worked on the mechanical issues that have plagued him over the first half of the season, and the hope is that he will show in the second half of this season, similar to what he did in 2016.
Gossett had a tough outing to close out the first half of the season, taking his fourth loss in 4-1/3 inning, three run five hit outing. In three of his four losses, he’s received just one run of support or less. The Rays have never faced the 24 year-old right-hander that has relied primarily on a 92 mph four-seam fastball with average velocity and little arm-side run, and an 84 mph worm-burner of a slider. He’s also mixed in a 79 mph 12-6 curveball, an 82 mph cut action changeup, and a whiffy 91 mph sinker bereft of arm-side run.
Snell kept the Cubs off the board for five innings — despite walking four batters — giving him his first scoreless outing of the season. The bullpen could not secure a win for Snell, as the relievers gave up seven unanswered runs with Snell out of the game. While his outing was a step forward, the walks that Snell issued are concerning, and have raised his BB/9 up to an unsightly 5.9 on the season. Suffice it to say, if Snell can’t get it together over his next two starts, the Rays might be forced to rely upon the services of Brent Honeywell instead.
Smith will make his second big league start in Jharel Cotton’s place in the rotation. The 36 year-old allowed three runs on six hits over six innings in his first start on July 8, in Seattle. This season Smith has relied upon an 87 mph pitch-to-contact four-seam fastball, a whiffy 78 mph 12-6 curveball, and a 76 mph Changeup.
Faria posted his seventh consecutive quality start on Friday, holding the Angels to one run on five hits over 6-2/3 innings for a no-decision. The right-hander was tough even without his best stuff. The cool as a cucumber rookie stranded runners in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings — holding the Angels to 0-for-6 wRISP in those spots.
Gray tossed six shutout innings against Cleveland on Friday, giving up just two hits and walking one while fanning five and coaxing seven groundouts. The Rays were able to get to the 27 year-old right-hander the last time they faced him, tagging Gray for five runs (two earned) on nine hits over six innings … although he did strikeout 10. For whatever reason, Tampa Bay has fared well against Sonny over his career, as he is 2-2 with a 4.02 ERA against the Rays in eight starts. Key Matchups: Tim Beckham (4-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Corey Dickerson (2-8, HR, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (8-23, 3 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Trevor Plouffe (2-7, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Mallex Smith (1-3)
— As we noted last night, Jumbo Diaz was designated for assignment after the game, and Andrew Kittredge has been selected from Durham. He will join the team on Monday.
— I still can’t get over this blast and ensuing bat flip:
— MLB (@MLB) July 16, 2017