After finishing their most recent homestand with a 5-2 record, the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays will take the hit show to Toronto, where they’ll play a brief two-game series against the Blue Jays. The Rays start the series with a 34-32 record, 2-1/2 games out of second place behind the Red Sox, and 1-1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays.
When looking at BaseRuns, which is primarily based on a team’s run differential, the Rays are underperforming — largely due to a pitching staff that hasn’t been able to consistently hold leads. FanGraphs finds that they should be 37-29 on the season. Still, they posted a +.500 record in the month of May, and they’re 5-5 so far in June, which has allowed the Rays to move up in the AL East.
The Blue Jays are now the only team in the AL East bereft of a winning record. Toronto is 17-14 at home, however, they are 11-18 against the AL East, and 5-5 against Tampa Bay. To their credit, the Blue Jays are coming off a series win against the Mariners — you know, the team that the Rays were swept by a week-and-a-half back — and they are 10-6 since the return of Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson from the DL. Be that as it may, Tampa Bay has outperformed Toronto overall, including the last 14 days.
Over the next two days, Kevin Cash will call upon a pair of Jakes — Jacob Faria (1-0, 1.42 ERA, 2.48 FIP), and Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 3.59 ERA, 5.03 FIP). John Gibbons will counter with Marco Estrada (4-4, 4.04 ERA, 3.44 FIP), and Francisco Liriano (3-2, 5.87 ERA, 4.91 FIP).
Faria is in line to make his second big league start after an impressive debut against the ChiSox, in which he allowed one run on three hits over 6-1/3 innings. He struck out five. At Triple-A Durham this season, the right-hander went 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA/3.22 FIP, and 84 strikeouts.
Estrada has hit a road block after a strong start to the season. He’s allowed 11 earned runs on 16 hits over his last 9-1/3 innings of work, while striking out a combined 12 batters. His command (or lack thereof) has been a big reason why, as he’s left too many elevated changeups in the zone. Estrada hasn’t had much success against the Rays, at least as it relates to his 1-6 record, however, his sub four ERA (3.75) overall tells a different story. Then again, he’s 0-2 with an 8.18 ERA against Tampa Bay this season after allowing 13 runs on 10 hits over 11 innings of work. All this is to say, who knows which Estrada will take the mound Tuesday night? Key Matchups: Corey Dickerson (5-14, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Logan Morrison (5-16, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI), Daniel Robertson (1-2), Jesus Sucre (1-2, HR, RBI)
Odorizzi battled in the sixth inning of a win over against Chicago, giving up a three-run homer, but was sharp otherwise, striking out a season-high-tying eight. He’s also been sharp over his previous four starts, collecting 22 strikeouts and allowing just 10 earned runs on 24 hits. However, there is something to be wary of, Odorizzi has given up at least one home run in all but one start this season — April 15 vs. Boston, the game he left after just one inning of work.
Liriano struggled before going on the 10-day DL in May with left shoulder inflammation, and hasn’t pitched deeply into games since his return. The left-hander has gone five innings in each of his two starts since returning, but earned a win on June 2 with a two-run effort against the Yankees. He is 1-0 against Tampa Bay this season, yet with a 9.00 ERA over three starts (totaling 9 innings pitched). Key Matchups: Tim Beckham (1-4, 2 BB), Peter Bourjos (9-35, 3 2B, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Corey Dickerson (2-7, RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (9-25, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB), Daniel Robertson (2-4, HR, RBI, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-3, RBI, 6 BB), Jesus Sucre (1-2, RBI)