The Tampa Bay Rays left the Tampa Bay area in favor of a nine-game road trip following their series finale with the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. First stop Baltimore, where the Rays will face the Orioles in a rain shortened two-game series, starting Wednesday. Tampa Bay is coming off a three-game sweep of the Twins, and has won four consecutive games overall — five of their last six. Meanwhile, Baltimore dropped the final three games of a four-game set against Cleveland.
Both teams have struggled over the first month of play, although the Rays have turned it around thanks in large part to the offense, which has put up six runs per game (on average) over their last six games. The offense should chug along against an Orioles team that has allowed 6.11 runs per game (on average) over a nine-game stretch.
One thing is certain, when the Rays have put the ball in play, they have been successful (at least as it relates to BABIP. The series number runs across the X-Axis, while the BABIP climbs up the Y-Axis (see below).
The Orioles have been abysmal, if I may be so blunt. A series win against Baltimore, which would be their third series win in a row — and the fourth in five tries — would go a long way in building momentum ahead of their jaunt into that crappy, sardine can of a stadium also known as Fenway.
Kevin Cash will lean on Jacob Faria (1-1, 5.82 ERA) and Chris Archer (1-1, 6.59 ERA) over the first two games of the set, and the bullpen (3-7, 5.14 ERA) in the series finale on Thursday. Buck Showalter will counter with Alex Cobb (0-2, 15.43 ERA), Dylan Bundy (1-2, 1.42 ERA), and Chris Tillman (0-4, 9.87 ERA).
Jacob Faria picked up a win over Texas on Wednesday after he allowed just one run on five hits and a walk over six innings, while fanning six. He threw 53 of 80 pitches for strikes (66% strike ratio), with his only real mistake resulting in a third inning solo shot by Shin-Soo Choo. It was Faria’s first quality start of the season, as well as his first victory since last July 25 — a stretch of eight starts and two relief appearances since his last win.
Alex Cobb allowed seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits and one walk over 3-1/3 innings on Thursday against the Tigers. He stuck out four batters. Suffice it to say, Cobb’s tenure with the Orioles is off to a rocky start, as he’s now allowed 15 runs (12 earned) in just seven innings across his first two starts. He’s struggled immensely thus far — allowing 10 hits and failing to make it past the fourth inning in both outings — although he could still be working out some kinks after signing late in Spring Training. This start will mark his first against his former team, which he spoke about in an interview with Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times):
It will be a little odd seeing the jersey, Cobb said. Been part of the family for so long. …It’s always sad to see whenever an organization breaks down the core of a team, especially one a fan base got to enjoy and to watch for a long time. You never want to see it. They found it was the right time to experiment with some things. And we know the financial constraints they’re up against. …But it’s tough to see. It took a long time to build it up. And to see it get broken down pretty much overnight, it’s strange to see.
Chris Archer allowed a second inning homer in his last start, then settled down from that point on.
Archer got better depth on his slider and paired it with a lively fastball, as well a changeup which he largely threw to southpaw hitters. In fact, Archer threw 14 changeups on the night (10 for strikes, two whiffs) — a rarity of sorts. Archer notched a of whiffy strikeout of Kepler, and coaxed a ground ball out from Morrison in the seventh, both via the changeup.
All told, Archer went 6-2/3 innings and allowed just two runs on four hits, while walking one and fanning five. He threw 92 pitches (62 strikes, 67% K/BB).
Dylan Bundy allowed one run on five hits and struck out nine over six innings to earn his first victory of the season against Cleveland on Friday. Cleveland’s lone run came on a bases-loaded HBP to score Jason Kipnis, yet Bundy scattered three hits and a walk over the next five frames. The right-hander has been very good at the onset of the season, and now owns a 1.42 ERA to go along with a 1.11 WHIP and 40 punch-outs across 31-2/3 innings. This season he has relied primarily on a 92 mph four-seam fastball with good “rising action”, and a whiffy 82 mph slider. He also has mixed in an 84 mph changeup with slight armside fade, a 92 mph sinker, and a 75 mph curveball with a lot of bite. Key Matchups: Brad Miller (2-8, HR, RBI), Mallex Smith (2-5, RBI), Denard Span (1-3, 2B, RBI)
— The Rays can match their longest winning streak (five games) under the management of Kevin Cash with a win on Wednesday.
— Medical Matters…
Matt Duffy had what had been called “a really good workday” on Tuesday, with plans to play in a simulated game in Port Charlotte on Wednesday. He is slated to advance to a rehab game with either the Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs, or Triple-A Durham Bulls on Thursday, and he can return as early as Friday.
Nathan Eovaldi continued his recovery from March 30th surgery to remove pieces of loose cartilage from his elbow, tossing a 25-pitch bullpen session at Tropicana Field.
Pretty remarkable, but knowing him not surprising, Rays manager Kevin Cash told the Tampa Bay Times. That’s great. We’ve got to do a good job of managing him simply because he’s so eager to get back, and he puts a lot of pressure on himself and his rehab.
At this point it isn’t known whether Eovaldi would be slotted back into the starting rotation, with the potential for a five-man crew, or if he would he throw out of the ‘pen. The relief staff could either use some help or some extra rest, performing to a 5.14 ERA and 4.47 FIP on the season.