Tampa Bay salvaged the final game of a three-game series with Seattle, blanking the Mariners 3-0 on Sunday behind an excellent start by Blake Snell. The Tampa Bay Rays will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into the Trop for a three-game series, starting Tuesday. This will be the last series between the the pair this season.
In all fairness, the Rays should have won the previous series, if not for a controversial managing decision by Kevin Cash, who left Jake Odorizzi in the Saturday’s ball game six-batters, three-runs and two-outs too long. Aside from Friday night’s loss, and excepting Odorizzi’s performance on Saturday, Tampa Bay played much better during the last series than they had the past two … even if the stats don’t bare that out. Perhaps Kevin Kiermaier really is adding that much needed spark going into the upcoming set with Toronto — which could be viewed as a bellwether for the Rays, who need to start racking up wins with the quickness, less they be left out in the cold in October for the fourth consecutive season.
After taking three out of four from the Rays last week, Toronto dropped three straight to the reigning World Series champions. Credit where it’s due, the Jays were able to take the aforementioned series with Tampa Bay. That, however, had more to do with the Rays inability to capitalize on 37 opportunities with runners in scoring position (5-for-37 wRISP, .145 AVG) than it had with some superior performance by Joey Bats and company.
Kevin Cash will throw Chris Archer (8-7, 3.84 ERA, 3.20 FIP), Austin Pruitt (6-4, 5.37 ERA, 3.80 FIP), and Alex Cobb (9-8, 3.80 ERA, 4.30 FIP) over the next three days. John Farrell will counter with Chris Rowley (1-0, 2.61 ERA, 3.72 FIP), Marcus Stroman (11-6, 2.99 ERA, 3.69 FIP), and JA Happ (6-9, 3.90 ERA, 4.04 FIP).
Archer allowed three runs on five hits while fanning 10 in a loss to Toronto on Thursday. The right-hander hit 1,000 Ks for his career and 200 on the season. Archer continues to work deep into games, and has thrown over 100 pitches in 25 of his 26 starts this season. And while he has allowed just 20 earned runs over his past eight starts (an average of 2.5 runs per game), the Rays’ ace has collected only one win…but that’s more of an indictment of the team than it is Archer, who’s performing to an 11.2 K9/3.84 ERA/1.22 WHIP for the season, and regularly keeps his team in the game.
Rowley will make the third start of his big league career Tuesday night. He has allowed just three earned runs over 10-1/3 innings of work thus far — including a five inning, two-run outing against Tampa Bay in his last turn. He walked five in that start. The Rays went 3-for-14 wRISP against Toronto in that game, which says more about their inability to cash in on scoring opportunities, than it does for Crowley or Toronto’s ‘pen. Key Matchups: Adeiny Hechavarria (1-1, 2B, BB), Evan Longoria (1-2, BB), Wilson Ramos (1-2, BB)
Pruitt was tagged for a career-high six runs by the Mariners in his last start; his 23rd career appearance (sixth start). He has allowed three combined runs in four of those starts, but five or more in his other two. Pruitt has allowed three runs on six hits (including a homer) over 6-1/3 total innings of work this season against Toronto.
Stroman has limited opponents to three earned runs or fewer in 20 of his 25 starts this season, and has allowed just one home run over his last 10 starts — performing to a 2.02 ERA over that stretch. The right-hander has lasted more than six innings in eight of his last nine starts, performing to a 2.17 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 1.83 K/BB over 54 innings. In his last start against the Rays on August 16, Stroman gave up two runs on six hits and three walks, while striking out seven. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (2-6, 3B), Corey Dickerson (8-24, 3 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB), Lucas Duda (1-3, 2B), Evan Longoria (9-30, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (5-15, 2B, 2 BB)
Cobb will again take the mound after a stint on the 10-day DL with turf toe. The right-hander is 2-2 with a 3.98 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break, and is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in one start against Toronto this season (3-3 with a 3.56 ERA in seven career starts against the Blue Jays).
Happ allowed five earned runs in his last start against the Cubs — his worst outing in about a month. Prior to that, the left-hander had allowed just one earned run in three consecutive outings. He didn’t allow much hard contact; rather, he was done in by the BABIP luck dragons, with seven of nine hits against him falling for singles. The left-hander had posted a 3.79 ERA and 1.94 K/BB in his first six starts since the All-Star break. This will be his first start against Tampa Bay this season and he is 3-3 with a 5.08 ERA in 14 career games (13 starts) against the Rays. Key Matchups: Corey Dickerson (1-2, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (4-16, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Evan Longoria (11-31, 3 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB), Brad Miller (2-8), Logan Morrison (7-14, 3 2B, 4 RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (1-3), Steven Souza Jr. (6-14, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB)
— Ex-Ray OF BJ “Melvin” Upton has opted out of his minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. He hopes to join a postseason contender. Upton has experience, speed, and a quality glove. He, however, cannot hit out of a wet bag. If the Rays are still seeking a right-handed bat, as Jon Heyman asserted, they would do well by staying away from BJ.