After salvaging the final game of their previous set against Boston, the Tampa Bay Rays welcome the Baltimore Orioles into Tropicana Field, where they are set to start a three-game series on Friday. So far the two teams have split the six games between each other this season.
The Rays offense has been inconsistent this season, although in all fairness they have been pitched against really well — something that became evident in their recent trio of losses against the Angels and Red Sox. Tampa Bay started the season as one of the worst offensive teams in the league, but got the offense going after the inauspicious 3-12 start, especially against teams outside of Boston, who they are 19-14 against. Thursday’s win capped a three-game losing skid.
The Orioles continued their rough start against the South-Siders, who they split a four-game series with. While they outpace the Rays in home runs (60) — and in spite of the 17-1 throttling levied on Tampa Bay a couple of weeks back — the O’s have been poor on offense, ranked 26th in the league in scoring; averaging just 3.92 runs per game while batting a combined .232. They haven’t been much better on the mound, performing to a combined 5.13 ERA, while ranking dead last in WHIP at 1.54. The pen hasn’t been much better, starting the series with a combined 4.49 ERA.
All this is to say that if the Rays want to get to where they think they should be, they MUST exact some revenge on the birds this weekend, and in the very least win the series.
Kevin Cash will lean on the hybrid ‘pen/starting rotation model* this weekend. So far we know that Sergio Romo (1-0, 4.34 ERA) will get the start on Friday and Sunday, while Ryne Stanek (0-0, 5.40 ERA) will toe the rubber on Saturday. It is thought that Ryan Yarbrough (4-2, 3.54 ERA), Anthony Banda (0-0, 5.40 ERA) and the recently promoted Vidal Nuno (3-1, 3.57 ERA) will be the long-men over the span of the series. Buck Showalter will counter with David Hess (1-1, 6.75 ERA), Andrew Cashner (2-5, 4.72 ERA), and Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.48 ERA).
We will update things if something different becomes apparent.
Sergio Romo started in back-to-back games against the Angels last weekend, throwing 2-1/3 innings of shutout baseball with six strikeouts, two walks and no hits among the nine batters he faced. Right-handers are hitting .196 off him this season. The right-hander has gone 1-0 with a 4.34 ERA in 20 games overall, but 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA/1.34 FIP over the last 14 days.
Ryan Yarbrough took the mound after Romo on May 19th, and allowed just three hits and a walk over the next six frames, collecting four punch outs. During that stretch he allowed just two batters to reach over the minimum, while only one runner got into scoring position in the fourth inning. Yarbrough ended that frame by coaxing a fly-ball out to center from Andrelton Simmons.
David Hess gave up five runs on eight hits (including three home runs) over 4-2/3 innings against the Red Sox on May 20th. Moreover, he has allowed eight earned runs on 14 hits (including four homers) and two walks while striking out seven in two starts this season (10-2/3 innings). Hess was 30-28 with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in 96 games (90 starts) over five seasons in the minors, including 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in six starts at Triple-A Norfolk this season. Hess has relied upon a 92 mph fastball that lacks horizontal movement and tends to get barreled up when it’s elevated, an 83 mph slider with hard tilt with sweeping action that he uses as his put-away pitch, a 75 mph get-me-over curveball with mild depth and spin, and an 84 mph changeup that lacks the movement to provide deception against opposing batters. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (1-3), Matt Duffy (1-3, HR, 3 RBI), Brad Miller (1-3), Joey Wendle (3-3)
Ryne Stanek has allowed two home runs in six appearances (five innings), including a grand slam to Manny Machado on May 11th. Still, Stanek’s much improved splitter offsets his four-seam fastball, although his .437 wOBA against right-handers leaves a lot to be desired — as does the fact that he tends to give up medium-to-hard contact. I imagine that he will be a one and done pitcher on Saturday.
Anthony Banda has allowed five runs on nine hits (including a home run) and two walks over 8-1/3 combined innings against the Royals and Angels this season.
Andrew Cashner allowed two runs on eight hits and thee walks over five innings on Monday. He struck out four. In spite of a none too efficient outing, Cashner made the big pitch when he needed to, and was helped out by an outfield assist at home plate as well. His inability to keep runners off base, however, looks like it will be a problem all season long. Cashner hasn’t walked fewer than two batters in a start yet, and has struggled mightily to keep his pitch counts down even when he’s been on his game. This season he has relied primarily on his 93 mph sinker using a two-seam fastball grip and a 94 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in a hard 82 mph 12-6 curveball, an 88 mph cutter with natural sink, and an 84 mph changeup. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (1-2, 2B, BB), Matt Duffy (4-13, 3B, RBI, BB), Brad Miller (2-4, RBI, 2 BB), Denard Span (7-22, 2B, 5 RBI, BB)
Vidal Nuno was recalled from Triple-A Durham on Wednesday. He posted a 3-1 record with a 3.57 ERA and 3.70 FIP with the Bulls. Per FanGraphs,
He’s (nuno) a strike-thrower. He’s thrown strikes as both a starter and as a reliever, and while he’s never been a swing-and-miss type, his contact rates haven’t been terrible. On top of that, when Nuno moved to the bullpen, his stuff didn’t really play up. It’s easier, then, to imagine him as a starter again, throwing the same pitches around the same speeds. Don’t be too turned off by his home-run rates — he just allowed the same average exit velocity as Justin Verlander and Johnny Cueto. I don’t think it’s a stretch to look at Nuno and think he has some shot of being another Wei-Yin Chen. The core abilities there are pretty similar.
Kevin Gausman fanned 10 in 6-1/3 scoreless innings on Tuesday. He allowed nine hits and one walk in the no-decision against. Gausman was staked to a two-run lead when he left the game, but Baltimore’s ‘pen gave it up. This was Gausman’s sixth quality start on the season, and perhaps his most impressive of all, as he recorded a career-high 25 swinging strikes against a befuddled White Sox lineup. He now has an excellent 3.87 K/BB and 3.48 ERA over 62 innings of work. He allowed two runs on 11 hits over 7-1/3 innings against Tampa Bay on the 11th, and is 6-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 13 career starts against the Rays. Seven of those starts came at the Trop, where he is 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (5-14, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Matt Duffy (2-4), Wilson Ramos (3-12, HR, RBI), Rob Refsnyder (3-8, 2B, BB), Mallex Smith (3-10, 3B, BB), Denard Span (6-13, 3 2B, 3 RBI), Jesus Sucre (2-6, 2 2B, 1 RBI), Joey Wendle (1-4)
— *Curious about the Rays new approach to pitching? We’ll have analysis of the move this weekend.
— OF Carlos Gomez (groin strain) ran and took batting practice with no issues. He will play in an extended Spring Training game Friday in Port Charlotte and, if all goes well, come off the DL Saturday or Sunday.
— RHP Nathan Eovaldi (arthroscopic elbow surgery) came through his fourth and final rehab outing Thursday feeling fine, although he gave up 10 hits for Triple-A Durham. He’s expected to join the rotation Monday or Tuesday in Oakland.
— SS Willy Adames was optioned back to Triple-A Durham after the game Thursday, with INF Joey Wendle returning from a three-day paternity leave.
Adames told reporters he appreciated the opportunity and felt like he learned a lot during his three-game stint. Adames went 2-12 with six strikeouts over his three games stint, hitting a homer off Chris Sale and throwing Eduardo Nunez out at home. However, he also made a costly ninth-inning throwing error Wednesday that led to three runs.