The Tampa Bay Rays continue their nine-game homestand on Friday, when they welcome the massively underperforming Toronto Blue Jays into the Trop for a three-game series.
The Rays are coming off a big series win against the Miami Marlins, taking three out of four from their cross state rivals. They, in no certain terms, should have won that series, as the Marlins are under .500 in three statistical categories: W/L record, Pythagorean Expectation, and BaseRuns. Much like the Marlins, the Blue Jays — a team the Rays are looking to exact some revenge against — are under .500 in the same three categories: a 9-19 W/L record, 12-16 Pythagorean Expectation, 11-17 BaseRuns. But unlike the Marlins, the Blue Jays are actually a pretty bad team, reminiscent of themselves a few years prior when they could scarcely crack the AL East basement.
The Rays did have some trouble with the Jays in Toronto a week back, but make no mistake it, they are a beatable team. It will be interesting to see if any bad blood remains between the two teams, especially on Friday night when Chris Archer takes the mound.
Forget not, the Archer/Jose Bautista incident five days ago. Blue Jays’ manager called for Archer’s suspension, saying,
I would expect there’s got to be some kind of suspension the way they handle things now. If the umpire hadn’t issued a warning he wouldn’t have thought anything was wrong. But since he issued a warning maybe he was (thinking) ‘hey, maybe something’s not right here.’ Maybe he thought there was some intent.
I would imagine that’s when the league would step up like they do most of the time. I’d be disappointed if they didn’t. You have to maintain that continuity.
Yet Archer maintained his innocence, and…well, he hasn’t yet been suspended. If it smells like a dead fish, it probably is… I’ll remind you that the Rays ace absolutely stymied Joey Bats and the Jays in that start, and it all seems rather convenient for Gibbons to call for a suspension five days later, when his team would again face the Rays. Perhaps there’s some cowardice involved? Or, maybe it’s just a coincidence. As they say in Canada, “who knows, eh?”
Over the next three days Kevin Cash will throw Chris Archer (2-1, 3.43 ERA, 3.38 FIP), Jake Odorizzi (1-1, 3.50 ERA, 5.21 FIP), and Alex Cobb (2-2, 3.86 ERA, 4.36 FIP). John Gibbons will counter with Francisco Liriano (2-2, 3.97 ERA, 3.53 FIP), Marco Estrada (1-1, 2.43 ERA, 2.94 FIP), and Mat Latos (0-1, 6.60 ERA, 7.84 FIP).
Archer’s last start was against Toronto, and he came away with a tough no-decision after allowing just one run on four hits and two walks. He struck out five over 7-1/3 innings. The right-hander pounded the zone, collecting strikes 66% of the time, yet after recording exactly five strikeouts for the fourth time in six starts, his K/9 has fallen to 8.5 on the year. In any case, this was an excellent bounce-back performance for the ace after he allowed nine earned runs over his previous 11-2/3 innings. A cautionary tale, Archer has struggled the third and fourth times through the order this season.
Liriano, after starting the season rather tepidly, finished the rest of April strong and now holds a 2.01 ERA with 24 strikeouts over 22-1/3 innings. Opposing batters have posted a measly .600 OPS over that span. He is 1-0 with a 10.13 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season, although most of that damage was incurred in his first appearance against Tampa Bay. Key matchups: Peter Bourjos (9-33, 3 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Corey Dickerson (2-5, RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (7-23, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB), Brad Miller (2-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Daniel Robertson (1-2, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-3, 3 BB), Jesus Sucre (1-2, 1 RBI)
Odorizzi returned from the disabled list Monday and shut the Marlins down, allowing one lowly earned run on two hits and a walk, with six strikeouts over five innings. Odo pitched well, giving up just a sacrifice-fly after an error in the first inning, and a solo homer to Marcell Ozuna in the fourth. He was efficient, needing just 78 pitches to make it through five innings, but his absence over the last couple of weeks without a rehab assignment was the cause of the early exit. Odorizzi is 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 12 career starts against Toronto.
Estrada, whom the Rays beat up to the tune of five runs over seven innings on April 9, has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his six starts this season. The right-hander pitched extremely well in his last start, inducing weak contact time after time, and only allowing just a run after a small rally in the fourth inning. He relinquished five runs in his second outing of the season, however, Estrada has now been scored upon just four times in his last 26 innings, allowing him to lower his ERA to a stellar 2.43 (3.53 FIP). He also has raised his K/9 to 9.2 this season. Saturday should be an interesting contest, to say the least. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (5-11, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (7-20, 2B, 3B, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Daniel Robertson (1-2), Jesus Sucre (1-2, HR, RBI)
Cobb notched his best outing of the season Tuesday, blanking the Marlins over six innings, and scattering just four hits. He is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA in six career starts against the Blue Jays.
Latos is coming off a very rough outing against the Yankees, one in which he allowed seven runs over four innings. He served up four home runs, yet he lives to see another day with J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez on the DL. This season has relied primarily on his 92 mph four-seam fastball bereft of movement and a whiffy 87 mph cutter. He also mixes in a 92 mph sinker and an 82 mph changeup. Key matchups: Evan Longoria (1-3), Colby Rasmus (7-14, 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Rickie Weeks Jr. (6-20, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI)
— Some notes on the heels of the previous series, and before the upcoming three-game set, courtesy of Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times):
- The Rays drew 28 walks during the four-games against the Marlins. They have walked 58 times in their last 10 games.
- They are 10-5 at the Trop, averaging 5.2 runs-per game.
- The Rays almost turned the fourth triple play in team history in the third inning on a grounder to 3B Daniel Robertson with runners on first and second. The last was Sept. 27, 2011 against the Yankees when Russell Martin grounded into a 5-4-3 triple play.
- SS Tim Beckham homered twice to tie LF Corey Dickerson and 1B Logan Morrison for the most on the team. Half of Beckham’s homers have given the team the lead.
- Beckham has hit more home runs in the first 30 games this season than he had in all of last season – five