The scuffling New York Mets play host to the Tampa Bay Rays, as the pair open a three-game interleague series Friday night at Citi Field. The series marks the team’s first trek to Queens since the Rays called Citi Field home for three-games last season, in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The Rays started their six-game road trip on a rather inauspicious note, dropping two of three games to the Miami Marlins. The Mets split a two-game set with Toronto.
Tampa Bay, again, has the opportunity to jump above the .500 mark with a series win. Furthermore, if playing competitive baseball is their raison d’être, then the Rays — who have gone 7-3 over over a 10-game stretch — need to use this series as a springboard to another one of their patented winning streaks leading up to the All-Star Break. New York has had the had the opposite success over its last 10 games, flailing to a 3-7 record.
Kevin Cash will lean on Ryne Stanek (1-2, 1.98 ERA) to open the first game of the series, Blake Snell (11-4, 2.24 ERA) and Nathan Eovaldi (2-3, 3.92 ERA). Mickey Callaway will counter with Steven Matz (4-5, 3.46 ERA), Jacob deGrom (5-4, 1.84 ERA), and a pitcher to be named before the series finale on Sunday.
Ryne Stanek saw his 12-appearance scoreless streak come to an end on Monday, in a relief loss to Miami. Still, the right-hander has a 0.85 WHIP and 22 strikeouts over 17-2/3 innings. Andrew Kittredge looks like the top candidate to cover the bulk of the innings behind Stanek, due to the heavy workloads that many of the Rays’ other long-relief options have assumed lately.
Steven Matz threw 5-1/3 innings on Sunday, allowing one unearned run on three hits and two walks while fanning six. The only run that scored was off an error by Matz. The southpaw lowered his season ERA to 3.46 alongside a respectable 3.62 K/BB. Even so, he has allowed six runs over his last 12 innings of work. This season Matz has relied primarily on his 94 mph sinker, while also mixing in a firm 84 mph changeup with slight armside fade and some natural sink, a 79 mph curveball with slight glove-side movement, and an 89 mph worm-killer slider. Key Matchups: Matt Duffy (1-3), Adeiny Hechavarria (2-6, 2 RBI), Wilson Ramos (2-6, RBI)
Blake Snell allowed one run on four hits and a walk while striking out 10 over 7-1/3 innings on Sunday. Snell’s lone earned run came on a seventh inning solo shot off the bat of Evan Gattis giving Houston a one-run lead, but Tampa Bay struck back for two in the bottom half of the frame, setting Snell up for the win. In 18 starts this season, Snell sits with an outstanding 2.24 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with a 3/1 K/BB over 108-2/3 innings. His last start, in front of AJ Hinch, may have solidified Snell’s first All-Star nomination.
Jacob DeGrom allowed three runs on six hits and a walk over six innings on Sunday. He struck out eight. The right-hander cruised through five scoreless innings before allowing a two-run homer. A misplayed grounder gave deGrom his third, and final, earned run on the night. Despite delivering nine consecutive quality starts, deGrom somehow has a 2-4 record over that stretch. He is 0-0 with a 2.84 ERA in one career start against Tampa Bay. This season deGrom has relied primarily on his 96 mph four-seam fastball and a 91 mph slider, while also mixing in an 89 mph changeup, a 96 mph sinker and an 83 mph curveball. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (1-2, BB), Carlos Gomez (4-10, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2)
Nathan Eovaldi threw six innings of two-run ball on Monday against the Marlins. Eovaldi allowed eight hits and walked one, while punching out five along the way. Eovaldi endured his share of baserunners in this outing, although he allowed just two extra-base hits and induced 11 groundball outs to limit the damage. The righty allowed a run on three hits in the second inning and another on a solo home run in the fifth. Things are looking up for Eovaldo, who’s thrown two consecutive quality starts, posting a 4.67 K/BB while allowing just two earned runs across 12 total innings of work.
— Following the series finale with the Marlins, the Rays optioned RHP Ryan Weber back to Triple-A Durham. A countermove will be announced before the series opener with the Mets.