The ugly weekend series against the Texas Rangers has come to pass, resulting in a three-game sweep. The Tampa Bay Rays now look to move past all that had happened when they open a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles, on Monday. The Orioles salvaged the finale of their three-game home series with the Astros, taking a 9-7 win Sunday afternoon.
It was a lost weekend in Tampa Bay, as the Rays saw their losing skid hit four games with Sunday’s loss. All three losses to the Rangers were one-run games, and Tampa Bay fell, into a tie with Kansas City for the second Wildcard slot — half a game behind New York.
Aside from the pitching staff, part of the problem has been an outage in production in the batter’s box. It’s no secret that we here at X-Rays Spex like to look at the Rays offensive production over 14-day stretches. With that in mind, Tampa Bay has seen its production plummet from a .258 BA/.308 OBP/.419 SLG/.727 OPS/.316 BABIP/.162 ISO/.307 wOBA/94 wRC+ slash line on July 17, to where it currently stands in the table below. The hitter’s have been adjusted to by the league, and the Rays haven’t adjusted back. Moreover, they’ve been rather unlucky — half of the time they’ve made contact, it has been on the ground and at someone.
The Rays have an opportunity to snap out of their malaise against an Orioles’ pitching staff that has given up the ghost far too many times this season. They, however, cannot continue stranding runners in scoring position (.190 BA wRISP vs both Texas and Oakland, .263 BA wRISP vs LAA). That is, they must scratch out runs and take advantage of every opportunity.
Baltimore has won five of its last seven games and closed to within 3-1/2 games of the second Wildcard slot in the American League. It will be up to Tampa Bay’s pitching staff to stop their intermittent drip of runs against a productive Baltimore offense (at least over the last 14 days).
The Rays took two of three the last time the two met (June 30 – July 2, in Baltimore).
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will lean on Blake Snell (0-5, 4.98 ERA, 5.17 FIP), Jacob Faria (4-1, 2.52 ERA, 3.53 FIP), and Alex Cobb (8-6, 3.57 ERA, 4.25 FIP). Buck Showalter will counter with Kevin Gausman (6-7, 6.11 ERA, 5.05 FIP), Wade Miley (4-8, 5.58 ERA, 5.36 FIP), and Ubaldo Jimenez (4-6, 7.82 ERA, 6.85 FIP).
Snell, aside from a misplaced pitch in the first inning, pitched well through the first three innings of his last start. The southpaw used his mid ’90s fastball to play off a devastating slider, allowing him to change the eye level of a number of hitters. Yet the wheels fell off in the fourth inning as Snell needed 31 pitches (just 15 strikes) to notch three outs after he walked the first two batters of the frame. His night was done after 85 pitches and four innings. Snell struck out six but walked three. Simply put, the Rays cannot leave him in the rotation and have postseason aspirations. The team cannot afford the inning to inning inconsistencies, and the four-to-five inning starts each turn.
Gausman has been inconsistent this season (which his 6.11 ERA and 1.75 WHIP loudly advertise) although he allowed just one run over six innings while striking out eight in his last start. Still, starts like this have been few and far in between for the right-hander, who badly needed a positive outing as Buck Showalter recently floated the potential of a demotion to Triple-A. Gausman threw seven scoreless innings and recorded nine strikeouts against the Rays back on July 7. Key Matchups: Evan Longoria (7-27, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB), Logan Morrison (2-8, BB), Trevor Plouffe (4-9, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (2-6, HR, RBI), Mallex Smith (1-3)
Faria allowed four runs on six hits and four walks while striking out four in a loss to Oakland on Wednesday. He, otherwise, has pitched well since being promoted from Triple-A Durham on June 7. All but one of Faria’s starts have been of the quality sort, and he has shown that he isn’t afraid to throw strikes, which can be difficult for younger players … just ask teammate Blake Snell.
Miley has given up fewer than four runs in just one of his past nine starts — allowing a combined 12 runs over 9-2/3 innings in his past two outings, while walking eight. Part of the problem is that Miley attempted to morph into a swing-and-miss pitcher toward the beginning of the season, which has been a blessing and a curse for the hurler. He’s tried to work off the plate to get hitters to chase pitches out of the zone, making Miley’s mistakes come off the plate as opposed to over it. However, when you cannot command your pitches, you end up working to a pretty ugly BB/9. The southpaw gave up two runs in seven innings against the Rays on April 25. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (2-6, 2B, BB), Adeiny Hechavarria (3-9, 2B), Wilson Ramos (3-7, 2B, 3 RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (5-20, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB)
Cobb was three outs away from throwing a complete game before he gave up a two-run homer to Shin-Soo Choo. The right-hander pitched very well otherwise, leaning very heavily on his split/change. Of the 99 total pitches pitches thrown, 46 were split/changeups, 33 were fastballs, and 24 were curveballs. 34 of Cobb’s split/changeups went for strikes (74%, 26 swings, 9 swings-and-misses). He has recorded eight straight starts of at least six innings pitched. He is 4-1 with a 2.35 ERA during that stretch. A cursory tale: the Rangers had 10 balls leave the bat at 100 mph or more against Cobb — the most since June 9. That’s a lot of loud contact off someone who Cash continued to lean on because he was doing a great job “of limiting hard contact.” That, however, is not meant to take anything away from Cobb, who did a phenomenal job which the box score speaks to.
Jimenez has been inconsistent all season, but even more so in his past two starts, as the right-hander has allowed a combined 12 runs over nine innings. This season he is 0-1 with a 19.06 ERA in two starts against Tampa Bay, and 5-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 10 career starts overall. Key Matchups: Tim Beckham (1-2, 2 BB), Adeiny Hechavarria (4-5, 2B, RBI), Evan Longoria (5-19, HR, 6 RBI), Logan Morrison (6-11, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB), Shane Peterson (2-4, 2B, HR, 5 RBI)
— Tampa Bay did not use Chase Whitley in Sunday’s 6–5 loss. Whitley would appear to be the multiple-inning option if needed Monday night. It also is expected that Sergio Romo will be activated before the series as well.
— Cogent point, Topkin:
Terrible weekend by #Rays, but Twitter/email reax that season’s over, they should sell all, fire Cash AND move to Montreal seems a bit much
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 24, 2017
As bad as the weekend past was, the Rays are still just 3-1/2 games back in the AL East — the same place as they were at the All-Star Break — and lost just one game in the standings since the ASB to the Yankees.
The Rays are currently at 51 wins on the season, and need between 87 – 90 wins for at least a Wildcard berth. Let’s split hairs and say they would need 88.
That means they would have to win 37 of their next 63 games, or in other words play at a .587 clip. That’s completely doable. And as long as they win series — 2-out-of-3 or 3-out-of-4; continue playing at a .660 – .750 clip as they had before this weekend — they should be fine.
BUT, they cannot afford to be swept by teams they, themselves, should have swept.