The Tampa Bay Rays are set to kick off a four-game visit to Angel Stadium in Anaheim, where they will battle the Los Angeles Angels this weekend. Tampa Bay is coming off a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, while Los Angeles just dropped two-of-three to the AL West leading Houston Astros.
Tampa Bay enters the series with a 19-22 record on the season, although the team was able to take all three games at Kaufman Stadium — the Rays’ first sweep of the Royals since 2011, and the first in Kansas City since 2009. Prior to that, they had lost six of seven following a spate of play where the team was able to make up eight games in the loss column. If the Rays has any hope of being a part of the Wildcard race, then they will need to be much more consistent at the plate. To their credit, they were able to tag the Royals for 13 runs, although they have averaged just 3.67 runs per game over their last nine games … and that just won’t get it done. While they have averaged 4.45 runs per game on the road this year, they have also allowed 5.45 runs per game under the same parameters.
The Angels have been very good at the plate so far, ranking sixth in the league in scoring — putting up 4.93 runs per game — while also ranking second in homers with 58. They, however, have averaged 4.12 runs per game at home, while in the same breath allowing 4.96 runs per game.
Tampa Bay took four of the seven games from the Halos last season (2-1 at Angel Stadium).
Over the next four days, Kevin Cash will lean on Chris Archer (2-3, 5.64 ERA), Blake Snell (4-3, 3.12 ERA), Ryan Yarbrough (3-2, 3.93 ERA) and Anthony Banda (0-0, 5.40 ERA). Mike Scioscia will counter with Tyler Skaggs (3-2, 3.07 ERA), Nick Tropeano (1-2, 3.64 ERA), Andrew Heaney (2-2, 3.93 ERA) and Shohei Ohtani (3-1, 3.58 ERA).
Chris Archer was hit with the loss on Saturday against the Orioles, after he allowed six runs on seven hits and three walks over seven innings. He struck out four. It was Archer’s second seven inning start, yet his line left a lot to be desired thanks to the three long balls he allowed. The right-hander has now conceded nine home runs this season; he served up a homer in each of his first six starts, but kept the ball in the yard in his previous two outings heading into Saturday. He also allowed a steal of home (by Chance Sisco) and another run on a wild pitch. In spite of his 5.64 ERA across 52-2/3 innings, Archer has a solid 3.47 K/BB. He is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five starts at Angel Stadium.
Tyler Skaggs gave up two earned runs on six hits over six innings against the Twins, striking out seven and walking two in a 5-4 loss. Despite the score, the southpaw put together a solid outing, and has pitched well all season (save for a rough outing against Boston on April 18, when he got tagged for six earned runs). His strikeout rate has been on an uptick lately, and he has punched out at least seven batters in three consecutive starts after managing that feat just once in his first five trips to the mound. He now has a 3.07 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and a 3.54 K/BB over 44 innings this season. Contrary to the superlatives, Skaggs allowed five runs in his only appearance against Tampa Bay, and is 3-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 25 starts at Angel Stadium. This season he has relied primarily on his 92 mph four seam fastball resulting in a good number of swinging strikes, and a biting 75 mph curveball with sweeping glove-side movement, while also mixing in a 92 mph worm-killer sinker, and an 85 mph changeup with surprising cut action and sink.
Blake Snell took his third loss of the season on Sunday and is dealing with a sore right hip. The revelation came during manager Kevin Cash’s postgame press conference following a forgettable outing in which the left-hander allowed five earned runs on six hits over 3-1/3 innings against Baltimore. According to Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) Cash made sure to emphasize that it is a “minor, minor injury,” but also conceded the discomfort was the primary reason why he opted to pull Snell after just 73 pitches, allowing that he didn’t think the Snell “looked quite like himself.” Snell has faced the Angels just once, but walked away as the hard luck loser after he put together a 6 IP/4 H/2 ER/7 K performance.
Nick Tropeano was credited with a no-decision in his last start on Saturday against Minnesota after the right-hander yielded three runs over six innings. This season he has relied primarily on his 91 mph four-seam fastball with natural sinking action and slight armside run, and an 80 mph 12-6 slider, while also mixing in an 82 mph splitter that dives down out of the zone, an 89 mph sinker with obvious tail, and a whiffy 82 mph changeup. He is 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two career starts against the Rays, but has not faced them since 2016. Tropeano is also 3-4 with a 4.56 ERA in 14 career starts at Angel Stadium. Key Matchup: Brad Miller (3-9, 2 HR, 3 RBI)
Ryan Yarbrough allowed one run on five hits and three walks over five innings to earn his third win of the season on Monday against the Royals. He struck out four. Yarbrough put together a somewhat surprising outing, in that his strike to ball rate sat at 60% as he walked three batters. It will be interesting to see if the southpaw can bounce back against Mike Trout and the Angels, who he has never faced.
Andrew Heaney fanned 10 over eight solid innings of one-run ball against the Astros on Monday. He later described the outing as the best of his career. Heaney has pitched to a 1.80 ERA over his last four starts for the Angels, although he is 6-4 with a 4.16 ERA in 17 starts at home. This season the left-hander has relied primarily on his 92 mph swing and miss sinker and a hard 80 mph curveball, while also mixing in a firm 84 mph worm-killer changeup with armside fade and natural sink. He has never faced the Rays. Key Matchup: Brad Miller (2-2)
Anthony Banda efficiently cruised through the Royals lineup, setting a quick pace and inducing lots of contact — prior to the fifth inning he had struck out only one batter. But it appeared that the wheels might fall off for the southpaw in that frame. As Banda pounded the zone, the Royals began to hit squibbers that found holes.
A pair of leadoff singles and a sacrifice bunt later, Kansas City had runners on second and third with just one out. Banda came back and coaxed a soft grounder to short out of Ryan Goins that was scored as an RBI fielder’s choice. The next batter, Whit Merrifield, sent a liner to left that dropped just in front of Span, who struggled with the ball. Merrifield tried to stretch his single into a double, and Span gunned him down at second. The Rays got out of the inning with the lead, yet the Royals cut the deficit to one. Kansas City later tied the game against the tandem of Jose Alvarado and Sergio Romo.
That’s not to say Banda performed poorly, because he didn’t. The left-hander went five innings, and didn’t walk a batter. He struck out one and threw just 52 pitches (38 strikes, 73% strike ratio), although he allowed three runs on six hits.
Shohei Ohtani, thrust into a six-man rotation, will get the start in the series finale. Ohtani is coming off a quality start against Minnesota — his fourth of the season — in which he allowed just three hits and collected 11 strikeouts. It’s also thought that he may see some at-bats leading up to his start. The two-way star has relied on a blazing 98 mph four-seam fastball, a firm and whiffy 88 mph splitter with slight cut action and has some natural sink, and a sweeping 83 mph slider with two-plane movement, while also mixing in a whiffy 75 mph curveball with exceptional bite and glove side movement.
— Christian Arroyo, the highly touted prospect acquired in the December trade of Evan Longoria to the Giants, was called up Wednesday when the Rays put RF Carlos Gomez on the DL so they could add another right-handed bat. The team also plans to have him step in for 3B Matt Duffy, who is out of the lineup, likely until Friday, after leaving Tuesday’s game with hamstring tightness.
Arroyo has been off to a slow start with Triple-A Durham, hitting .200 with one homer (albeit a grand slam) in 17 games, having missed time with a calf strain.