Following back-to-back series losses, including extra innings series finale losses in both, the Tampa Bay Rays head to Toronto for a three-game set against a team they’ve already has success agains this season — the Blue Jays. For the Rays, a battle against the last place team in the AL East provides them with an opportunity to get back on the winning side of .500.
Tampa Bay won the second game of the series against the Orioles, 2-0, but dropped the first and last by a combined four runs. Over on the Blue Jays’ side, they just finished up against the Cardinals. Toronto squeaked out a 6-5 win against St. Louis on Tuesday, but dropped both games of a day/night doubleheader; 8-4 in 11 innings in the early game, and 6-4 in the nightcap.
The Rays will be looking to Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson to continue their toasty ways. Souza leads the team with 29 hits, 14 runs and 17 RBI, while Dickerson follows with 25 hits — including five homers — 11 runs and nine RBI. Evan Longoria, on the other hand, has stumbled of late, posting a .227 average with 20 hits, 10 runs and 12 RBI.
Meanwhile, Kevin Pillar has collected 24 hits, eight runs and six RBI, while Kendrys Morales has 18 hits, seven runs and 11 RBI to his name. Pillar lashed two hits and a run in game one in the first game of the double header, and a hit, a run and an RBI at night. Morales — relegated to pinch hitting duties in the first game — bagged a hit, and then a homer and three RBI in the second game. Still, the injury ridden Jays have the second worst run differential in the American League.
If anything, this should be an interesting series, as the Rays are 2-8 on the road, while the Blue Jays are 2-7 at home.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will start Blake Snell (0-2, 3.38 ERA, 5.50 FIP), Matt Andriese (1-0, 3.86 ERA, 5.35 FIP), and Chris Archer (2-1, 3.94 ERA, 3.50 FIP). John Gibbons will counter with Marcus Stroman (2-2, 3.10 ERA, 2.80 FIP), Francisco Liriano (1-2, 4.58 ERA, 3.60 FIP), and Aaron Sanchez (0-1, 4.38 ERA, 5.65 FIP).
Snell walked a career-high-tying five batters on Saturday against Houston. His three starts with five walks have come over his last 11 starts, and he has pitched five innings or less over his last three straight starts (seven of his last eight). Snell’s FIP has progressively ballooned over his last couple of starts, while his 15 strikeouts through 21-1/3 is worrisome. Repeat after me, his command (or lack thereof) continues to be a problem.
Stroman allowed two runs — one earned — in his second complete game of the season. His first start of the season was versus Tampa Bay and he picked up a win after 6-1/3 quality innings. Following a shaky start, Stroman settled in and kept the Angels off base for the next five innings while retiring 17 consecutive hitters. In spite a rather unlucky .400 BABIP over the last 14 days, Stroman owns an excellent 3.10 ERA and 3.03 FIP overall. Key matchups: Peter Bourjos (2-3, 3B), Corey Dickerson (5-17, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (9-24, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Logan Morrison (4-15, HR, 5 RBI, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (4-12, 2B, 2 BB)
Andriese was in line for his second win of the season in the series finale with the Astros before Alex Colome blew his first save of the season, and allowed an unearned run in the ninth. The right-hander has allowed 10 runs this season, six of which coming on the long ball.
Liriano was touched up for five runs on three hits in just 1/3 of an inning in his season debut against Tampa Bay. Since, however, he has turned things around. Liriano has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last three starts, notching 18 strikeouts to seven walks over those 17-1/3 innings. Key matchups: Peter Bourjos (9-31, 3 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Corey Dickerson (1-2, RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (7-20, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB), Brad Miller (2-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Daniel Robertson (1-1)
Archer gave up three home runs — the first he’s given up this season — in a loss against Baltimore Monday night. He pitched well in his season debut against the Blue Jays, allowing two runs on five hits. Archer has struggled with his command of late, leading to a triplet of five inning starts. In any case, he’ll try to move past his blip on Sunday in Toronto.
Sanchez has been out since April 14th with a blister on his right middle finger, although the injury has healed. Sanchez threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Tuesday with tape around his injured finger. He will throw a side session on Friday without any protective covering, and if all goes as planned, he should face the Rays on Sunday. In two starts this season, Sanchez has allowed six runs on 11 hits (including three homers) with a 9:4 strike to ball ratio. Key matchups: Kevin Kiermaier (3-10, 2B), Colby Rasmus (1-3), Jesus Sucre (2-3, 2B)
— Mallex Smith was activated off the DL by the Rays and optioned to AAA Durham.
Doing so allows the team to keep OF Shane Peterson for a couple extra days as protection if Rasmus has a setback. As Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) writes, Peterson is out of options so has to be passed through waivers, and potentially lost, before he can be sent to the minors.
— Colby Rasmus expected to come off the DL this weekend.
— It bears mentioning…
– lacks LHP
– has 4 veterans on DL
– has thrown 80.2 IP, 2nd most in AL
– has a 3.47 ERA (MLB average is 4.06)
— Dave Haller (@HallerDave) April 28, 2017