The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays will begin a three-game series at Tropicana Field on Monday night. Toronto is coming off a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, while the Rays dropped three of four against Seattle, and nine of their last 10.
The Blue Jays have been scorching at the plate of late, racking up 27 runs and 56 hits en route to a four-game sweep of Baltimore.
For their part, the Rays are not a bad team, however, they are just shy of being a good team … more often than not one run shy. Tampa Bay has lost a Major League leading 17 games by one run, including three in their last series.
With yesterday’s loss, the Rays have fallen to 29-35 on the season and run fourth place in the AL East — 1/2 game behind the Blue Jays.
Kevin Cash will lean on Ryan Yarbrough (4-2, 3.68 ERA) in the series openers, and presumably Austin Pruitt (1-3, 4.57 ERA) and Matt Andriese (1-3, 3.58 ERA) on Tuesday and Wednesday, based on when they last pitched. The Rays, however, have not set the starting rotation. We will offer updates when the situation clarifies. John Gibbons will counter with Sam Gaviglio (2-1, 2.51 ERA), Jaime García (2-4, 5.57 ERA), and JA Happ (8-3, 3.71 ERA).
Ryan Yarbrough will get the start on Monday. He has made 14 appearances this season, and has pitched to a 3.68 ERA/3.91 FIP over 58-2/3 innings overall. And though he is averaging just over four innings each time he gets the ball, that’s due in large part to his usage from March 31 to April 28. In his last outing, Yarbrough allowed five runs (four earned) on 10 hits and two walks over 5-1/3 innings.
Sam Gaviglio gave up three hits and three walks over seven scoreless innings, while striking out four. Gaviglio has allowed three runs or fewer in three of four starts and two of those were scoreless outings. One key to his success? He has walked seven over 28-2/3 innings this season. Be that as it may, he has managed just a 2.66 K/BB over the last 14 days. Gaviglio also has performed to a 1.38 HR/9 (20% HR/FB) and a very lucky — yet unsustainable — .216 BABIP over the same span. This season he has relied primarily on an 89 mph sinker and an 84 mph 12-6 slider, while also mixing in an 89 mph four-seam fastball with heavy sink and slight armside run, an 84 mph changeup with natural and a 79 mph curveball with little depth. Key Matchup: Daniel Robertson (1-2)
Austin Pruitt (1-3) allowed five earned runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out six across seven innings on Thursday. To be sure, the five earned runs are ugly, however, the bulk of the damage came in a three run second, and the other runs came on a pair of solo homers to Denard Span and Mitch Haniger. That is to say, Pruitt settled in and kept the Rays in the game. Pruitt has allowed four or more runs just three of his 10 appearances this season.
Jaime García threw six innings Thursday, allowing one run on three walks and four hits while fanning six in a 5-4 win over the Orioles. The Jays couldn’t give him much run support until a ninth-inning rally, so he didn’t factor into the decision. The 31-year-old southpaw lowered his season ERA to 5.57 to go along with a 2.08 K/BB ratio over 53-1/3 innings. Garcia has relied primarily on his 90 mph four-seam fastball with some natural sinking action, and a whiffy 90 mph sinker, while also mixing in an 82 mph slider with depth and armside cut, a whiffy 82 mph changeup, and a 73 mph curveball with sharp downward bite and slight glove-side movement. He is 0-0 with a 1.93 ERA in one start against the Rays (4-2/3 IP). Key Matchups: CJ Cron (1-3, HR, 2 RBI), Carlos Gomez (12-33, 2 2B, 3B, 2 RBI)
Matt Andriese allowed two earned runs on five hits, a walk and an HBP over 2-1/3 innings of a loss to Seattle on Friday. He struck out two. Andriese stayed away from the long ball, although he struggled overall through 48 pitches. The two runs he allowed came on soft contact — a Guillermo Heredia fielder’s choice and a Mitch Haniger single — but, the fact remains that Andriese has already allowed three earned runs over his first two June outings, and multiple runs in four of his last five appearances. All this after he performed to a .169 BA/.217 OBP/.338 SLG/.555 OPS line, and a 2.04 ERA/3.33 FIP, over 17-2/3 innings in May.
JA Happ picked up the win in a 5-1 victory over Baltimore, allowing only one unearned run on two hits and two walks over seven innings. He struck out three. The punch outs tied a season low, although pitching to contact seemed to suit the left-hander just fine as he delivered his fourth quality start in his last five trips to the mound, and seventh on the season. Happ allowed three runs on four hits (including a homer) over 5-2/3 innings of a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay on May 4. Key Matchups: Matt Duffy (5-10, HR, 3 RBI), Johnny Field (1-2, HR), Wilson Ramos (2-6, RBI), Rob Refsnyder (1-4, 2B)
— Kevin Kiermaier and Adeiny Hechavarria are set to begin their rehab assignments this week, with both players heading to Port Charlotte Monday and Tuesday.
— Daniel Robertson left yesterday’s game in the first inning with a strained hamstring. While not severe, the injury was enough to place Robertson on the 10-day disabled list. In his place, the team has promoted one of baseball’s top prospects, Willy Adames, back to the big leagues.