The Rays continue their five-game road trip in Los Angeles Friday, where they’ll take on the NL West leading Dodgers. Tampa Bay is coming off a pair of losses to the Diamondbacks, including a disappointing 9-8 loss Wednesday night — in a game where the bullpen royally crapped the bed, giving up a combined eight runs on 10 hits and four walks.
The Dodgers are 11-4 in their last 15 games, outscoring their opponents 58-32 — a differential of 25 runs. The Rays, on the other hand, are 9-6 in their last 15, having been outscored by their opponents 55-53. Tampa Bay has cooled down significantly, offensively speaking, exposing the rust and flaws of an inconsistent bullpen. Enter Josh Leuke.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that “Josh Lueke was called up by the Rays late Thursday, according to Durham-based blogger Adam Sobsey, though there was no word from the team.” On one hand, Lueke could be filling a DL spot for Chris Archer who was removed with right forearm tightness after 1-2/3 innings of work Wednesday night. However, both Archer and team officials were confident he would be fine and make his next start. The question begs: Who’s spot could he be taking? Kyle Farnsworth’s. Farnsworth, 37, struggled in 2013, posting a 5.76 ERA while allowing a .306 average and .828 OPS.
He, along with Cesar Ramos, posted a combined 11 IP/20 ER/13 H/1 BB slash line in their last six outings. Compare that to JP Howell, who’s given up no runs on two hits and three walks in his last six outings, a span of 5-2/3 innings. In light of Farnsworth and Ramos’ “questionable” outings of late, I’d think that Howell’s $2.85 MM contract with the Dodgers might actually be a small price to pay for a solid pen. But that’s neither here or now.
Chris Capuano: Per the Chicago Tribune, “Capuano isn’t the highest profile starter in the Dodgers’ rotation, but he’s quietly put together a strong second half. He’s recorded at least six shutout innings in three of his last four outings, and he enters Friday’s contest on a 13-inning scoreless streak. The 34-year-old is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three interleague starts this season.” Only a handful of Rays batters have any any experience against Capuano, and even then it’s only a minimal amount of experience at best. Expect Capuano to lean heavily on four pitches: his fastball, sinker, slider, and change-up. Opposing batters are hitting .291 and .271 (respectively) off his fastball and sinker, and if the Rays can force a mistake, they can make him pay. Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (1-2), James Loney (2-4, 2 RBI), Ryan Roberts (2-5).
Zach Greinke: Per Rotowire, “Greinke won Monday against the Cardinals as he pitched 6.1 innings and allowed two runs, eight hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts.” The Rays last faced the 29 year-old RHP in 2012, tagging him for eight runs on 14 hits and five walks in 13 innings of work. Lefties seem to be having a good amount of success against Greinke this year, posting a .289 BA/.357 OBP/.507 SLG/.375 wOBA. Key match-ups: Matt Joyce (6-15, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Jose Lobaton (1-3), James Loney (2-8, HR, RBI, BB), Ryan Roberts (2-6, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Sean Rodriguez (3-9), Luke Scott (2-7, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB).
Clayton Kershaw: Per Rotowire, “Kershaw gave up two earned runs on six hits and two walks with five Ks in six innings Tuesday in St. Louis.” This should be an interesting game. Kershaw has gone no fewer than six innings only twice this season — back in April — while relinquishing no more than four runs twice as well. Interestingly enough, Kershaw is 0-3 in those four games. As Steve Kinsella of DRaysBay notes, “He is much like the National League version of Chris Sale as when he pitches he seldom gets run support. Over his last 5 outings he has a record of just 2-2 but a sparkling ERA of 2.00. He has worked 36 innings and allowed just 25 hits. He has struck out 37 batters and only issued 3 walks.” Nevertheless, as a potential candidate for the NL Cy Young Award, don’t expect a blowout by the Rays Sunday. Key match-ups: Jason Bourgeois (1-4), Yunel Escobar (2-5, RBI, BB).
- Tampa Bay is 3-3 against the Dodgers, with all six games taking place at the Trop in 2002 and 2007. Tampa Bay is the only major league team to have never played at Dodgers Stadium.
- With Matt Kemp on the DL as usual, look for Yasiel Puig to carry the offensive load along with Hanley Ramirez if he is healthy. They are two of the hottest hitters on the planet the last two months, and have helped the Dodgers get the division lead that they have today at 5 1/2 games.
- Puigmania, eh?
- Since the All-Start break the Dodgers bullpen leads the National League in holding the opposition to a .176 batting average and are second in the league with a 2.04 ERA.
- Per DRaysBay, “The Rays will meet up with Carl Crawford who is back and healthy in 2013. Overall he is hitting .295/.344/.425 while proving that he can perform in the leadoff spot. He has played in 76 games and has 11 stolen bases while only getting nabbed 4 times.”