Looking to win their fifth consecutive series of the young season, the Tampa Bay Rays will cap their nine-game road trip north of the border, when they start a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. The Rays are coming off a three-game sweep of the White Sox, while the Blue Jays are coming off a series split against the woeful Red Sox.
Tampa Bay got a much deserved day off after the team ripped White Sox hurlers for 24 runs and 38 hits over the life of the series, improving to 5-1 on their nine-game road trip.
Besides a dominant pitching staff that has performed to an overall 1.98 ERA/2.66 FIP, another key to the Rays’ fast start has been their ability to plate early runs. Tampa Bay is hitting .367 with five homers and 17 runs scored in the first inning of their 13 games.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are a team that has been blessed with a good pitching staff, yet a sputtering offense. Even though they averaged 6.5 runs per game (RPG) against the reigning World Series champs, that run production is clearly the exception, not the rule, as the Blue Jays have averaged just 3 RPG over their first 14 contests. Just two hitters have been consistently productive in Toronto’s lineup: Freddy Galvis, who is hitting .333 BA/.381 OBP/.641 SLG/1.022 OPS with three home runs (at the time of writing), and Richard Urena, who is hitting .350 BA/.381 OBP/.500 SLG/.881 OPS across 20 at-bats. Otherwise, the Justin Smoak’s and Lourdes Gurriel’s of the lineup have been quiet.
In 2018, the Rays dominated the Blue Jays, winning 13-of-19 games, and posting a +31 run differential.
This will be the first meeting of the two teams since longtime coach, Charlie Montoya, took the over reigns as the manager of the Toronto ballclub.
Rays Pitching Probables
Over the next three days Kevin Cash is expected to lean on Ryne Stanek (0-0, 1.50 ERA) — who will likely be followed by Yonny Chirinos (2-0, 0.75 ERA) in the opener — Blake Snell (2-1, 2.84 ERA), and Charlie Morton (2-0, 2.25). Montoyo will respond with Trent Thornton (0-0, 1.69), Clay Buchholz (2018, 7-2, 2.01 ERA), and Marcus Stroman (0-2, 2.41 ERA).
Ryne Stanek has opening duties for the Rays for the third time this season. The right-hander was touched for a run in Tuesday’s 10-5 win against Chicago in relief, yet has tossed three shutout innings in his previous two games as an opener.
Yonny Chirinos isn’t scheduled to start at any point this week and will instead work in relief on a temporary basis. In two outings as a starter, Chirinos has been dominant, performing to a 0.75 ERA/2.60 FIP across 12 total innings of work. It would be a reasonable guess for him to take the mound after Stanek on Friday.
Trent Thornton has pitched well in his first two starts of the season although has nothing to show for it. The right-hander has been backed with just two runs of support in his two starts even though he has held opponents to a .139 batting average while striking out 15 in across 10-2/3 innings of work. Thornton allowed two runs on three hits over 5-2/3 innings while striking out seven in Cleveland last Friday. He did have some control issues compared to his season debut, walking two hitters while throwing 92 pitches. He also has been very lucky, pitching to a .200 BABIP, so regression is expected. The Rays are hoping the luck dragons will nip in their favor on Friday. Thornton relies primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in a hard 81 mph curveball with a ton of spin, an 89 mph cutter with natural sink and strong cutting action, and a whiffy 83 mph splitter with a lot of backspin on it.
Blake Snell allowed just a single run on six hits across the first six frames. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out 11.
Snell fanned five of the first six batters he faced and didn’t allow a runner beyond second base until the fifth inning when he gave up a two-out homer to left to Jose Rondon.
The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner got in trouble in the sixth inning, nevertheless, Mr. .083 BA wRISP did not break. Snell allowed a double to Leury Garcia to start the inning and an infield hit to Tim Anderson that glanced off of Snell’s glove, putting runners at the corners. However, the southpaw buckled down and struck out Jose Abreu, Welington Castillo, and Yoan Moncada to keep the lead intact.
Snell has now struck out 24 batters in his last two starts, the most he’s ever had in back-to-back outings. Snell coaxed 24 swings and misses, after a career-high 25 in his last start.
Clay Buchholz went 7-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 16 starts before his arm wore down last season and was placed on the injured list with a right flexor strain. After signing a $3-million deal with Toronto in the offseason, followed by a minor league rehab assignment to finish off Spring Training, Buchholz is ready for his first start of the season. In his words, expect a wily pitcher that tries to keep hitters off balance.
I’ve evolved into a different kind of pitcher. I’ve proven you don’t have to throw 98 to get guys out. You have to throw four pitches for strikes, mix it up, and keep guys off balance. That’s what I do.— Clay Buchholz
Last season Buchholz relied primarily on an 86 mph cutter, and a 91 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in a 76 mph curveball, a 78 mph circle changeup, and a 91 mph sinker. He is 9-8 with a 2.67 ERA in 23 career outings (21 starts) against Tampa Bay.
Charlie Morton gave up a two-run shot to Yoan Moncada in the bottom of the third inning, although he otherwise kept the White Sox off balance by leaning on his fastball (both two and four-seam, 46 thrown, 29 strikes, 63% strike rate), curveball (30 thrown, 15 strikes, 50% strike rate), and his cutter (14 thrown, 11 strikes, 79% strike rate).
The two runs were all that Morton allowed across five innings of work. The right-hander scattered three hits and three walks while striking out seven.
Marcus Stroman continues to look for his first win of the season. The right-hander has recorded 18 strikeouts over his first three starts of the season. In his last start against Cleveland, Stroman surrendered three runs on six hits and a walk while striking out six across six innings. The right-hander relies primarily on his 85 mph sweeping slider with two-plane movement, a 93 mph sinker with natural sinking action, and a 91 mph worm-killer cutter. Stroman is 5-5 with a 4.58 ERA in 13 career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (2-2, RBI), Ji-Man Choi (1-4), Avisail Garcia (5-9, 2B), Kevin Kiermaier (9-31, 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB), Michael Perez (1-2, 2B), Tommy Pham (1-1, RBI), Mike Zunino (1-3, HR, 2 RBI)
— Free on Sunday?
On Sunday, April 14, 2019 X-Rays Spex and Golden Dinosaurs Vegan Deli will team up to host a shirt release celebration and Rays watch party, when the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Toronto Blue Jays, in Toronto. We’re bringing all the camaraderie of the game, and some delicious foodstuffs, at one of the areas best new restaurants!
First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 pm, so be sure to get down to Golden Dinosaurs early to grab a bite to eat and an ice-cold brew. Don’t forget to snatch our newest shirt design (pictured) titled “The Legend of Dan Johnson,” so you can wear it to the Trop the following weekend when our guys take on the reigning World Series champs.
Throughout the afternoon Golden Dinosaurs will offer some select specials. We’ll also raffle off some great Rays swag between the innings, among other fantastic things.
See you April 14, and be sure to tell a friend!