After posting their second consecutive series loss, the Tampa Bay Rays hope to turn their fortunes around in Baltimore, where they’ll start a three game series against the Orioles on Friday.
In spite of the loss to the Bucs, the Rays have won 12 of their last 21 games and remain relevant in the AL East. The offense has been very good of late, averaging 5.89 runs per game over their last 19 games. The bullpen, however, has struggled to a 6.26 ERA over the last 10 games, even though it hasn’t really hurt the bottom line. Tampa Bay does need to get the ‘pen under control, or they could start to slide if the offense goes into an extended slump.
The Orioles have had a tough go of it over the back half of the first-half of the season, yet they still sit just 4-1/2 games out of first in the AL East. They’ve played some of their best baseball at home, where they are 24-14 — compare that to their 14-25 record away from Camden Yards. Baltimore’s pitching staff seems to be turning a corner, as they’ve allowed (on average) just 3.25 runs per game over a four game stretch. However, they went just 4-12 and allowed a whopping 8.56 runs per game over their previous 16 games. If they have any hope of staying in the playoff race, they will need their pitching staff to do what it has done over the last week.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will lean on Jacob Faria (3-0, 2.10 ERA, 2.71 FIP), Jake Odorizzi (4-3, 4.00 ERA, 5.48 FIP), and Alex Cobb (6-5, 3.73 ERA, 4.01 FIP). Buck Showalter will counter with Chris Tillman (1-5, 8.39 ERA, 6.39 FIP), Dylan Bundy (8-6, 3.73 ERA, 4.75 FIP), and Kevin Gausman (4-7, 6.07 ERA, 5.19 FIP).
Faria has recorded a quality start in all four of his previous outings, allowing just six earned runs in 25-2/3 innings in that span. His command wasn’t as crisp in his last start as it had been over his previous three, yet it wasn’t terrible. All told he posted a solid 6 IP/5 H/3 ER/1 BB/108 pitch (74 strikes) line, in an outing where he was undone by a hit batsman and a pair of long-balls on two mistake pitches. He kept the Rays in the game, and if that constitutes a bad start I’ll gladly take it.
Tillman has struggled with walks and home runs this season, and owns an 11.14 ERA in June with 40 hits allowed, 13 walks and seven home runs over just 21 innings. Moreover, the right-hander has allowed at least three runs in each of his past nine starts — including five runs (four earned) on eight hits against Tampa Bay last Sunday — and owns a disastrous 8.39 ERA and 2.18 WHIP for the season. Key Matchups: Tim Beckham (1-4, RBI, BB), Peter Bourjos (1-2), Taylor featherstone (1-1, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (20-66, 4 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 14 RBI, 6 BB), Logan Morrison (6-17, 2B, 3B, RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (3-11, 2B, RBI, BB), Mallex Smith (1-1, 2 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (7-22, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB), Jesus Sucre (1-2)
Odorizzi, in a food poisoning induced haze, coughed up four earned runs on seven hits over 5-1/3 innings against the Orioles on Sunday. It was the first time since May 16 that he had allowed more than three earned runs in a start. Now healthy, he should be more effective on Saturday.
Bundy will be working on some extra rest as the Orioles monitor his workload; the right-hander has already racked up 27-1/3 innings through five starts this month, and 99 on the season. He is looking to bounce back from a difficult month after he recorded a 5.94 ERA in June, with opponents posting an .882 OPS against him. To his credit, Bundy limited the Rays to three runs on five hits (including a pair of homers) over seven innings on Saturday. He struck out eight. Key Matchups: Tim Beckham (2-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Evan Longoria (4-11, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Logan Morrison (3-10, 2B, BB), Mallex Smith (1-2, BB)
Cobb flirted with a no-hitter in his start against the Pirates on Tuesday, pitching into the seventh inning without allowing a hit. Josh Harrison broke up his bid, but he still tossed eight scoreless innings and earned his fourth consecutive quality start.
Gausman has struggled with his control at points this season, but he is coming off his best outing of 2017 against Toronto. The right-hander didn’t relinquish a run for the first time this season, and allowed just four hits over 5-1/3 innings. Gausman held the opposition without an extra-base hit and allowed just two base runners past first. He wasn’t as efficient over his last couple of innings, and his pitch count hit 99 before he was removed one out into the sixth. Be that as it may, his ERA still sits at an unsightly 6.07 for the season (5.19 FIP). Key Matchups: Evan Longoria (7-24, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB), Trevor Plouffe (4-9, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (2-6, HR, RBI), Jesus Sucre (1-3, 2B, RBI)