After salvaging a win in the series finale with the Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays return home on Friday, where they will kick off their final series of the season. Enter the Baltimore Orioles.
Dubbed the Battle For Third Place in the AL East, the Rays must win these last three games to end the season with 80 wins, and in third place … this after falling out of contention on Tuesday, as well missing an opportunity to end the campaign with a better than .500 record. Baltimore is coming off a two-game sweep at the hands of the Pirates.
This dynamic duo of under performing ball clubs split a four-game set last weekend, and are knotted up at eight-games apiece in the season series — the Rays are 2-3 vs. Baltimore at home.
When comparing pitching staffs over the last 14 days, one could assume that Tampa Bay has a major advantage over Baltimore, and they should be able to close out the season on a high note. The team also had a legitimate shot at sweeping the O’s last weekend, yet they couldn’t get the job done. The rest, as they say, is history; they dropped the next two games against the Yankees and consequently fell out of contention, relevancy, and favor with Bay Area sports fans that are now focused on the Bucs and Lightning.
Over the final three days Kevin Cash will turn to Jake Odorizzi (10-8, 4.26 ERA, 5.52 FIP), Chris Archer (9-12, 4.18 ERA, 3.43 FIP), and Blake Snell (4-7, 4.27 ERA, 4.46 FIP). Buck Showalter will counter with Wade Miley (8-14, 5.52 ERA, 5.22 FIP), and presumably Miguel Castro (3-2, 3.29 ERA, 4.87 FIP) and Kevin Gausman (11-11, 4.81 ERA, 4.56 FIP).
Odorizzi has enjoyed a strong finish to his 2017 season, which should build his trade value going into the off season; there already are trade rumors surrounding the lanky right-hander. In two of his last four starts, Odo carried a no-hitter through at least five innings. He is 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA in September — a 22-1/3 inning run that has included 26 strikeouts. He’s allowed just three earned runs over four September starts, allowing him to lower his ERA from 4.85 to 4.26. In his last turn, Odorizzi allowed a first-inning run, but silenced Baltimore’s hitters bats the rest of the way.
Miley has been awful throughout most of the season, yet he is looking to finish strong in his final start. In his last three outings, Miley has performed to a 13.94 ERA over 10-1/3 innings. He has performed similarly against Tampa Bay this season, allowing seven runs on nine hits and nine walks over 13 innings of work. If I may, that’s no way to throw if you’re looking to have the remaining option on your contract picked up this winter. I digress. Key Matchups: Lucas Duda (1-3), Adeiny Hechavarria (4-12, 2B), Kevin Kiermaier (4-15, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (3-7, 2B, 3 RBI), Mallex Smith (1-3, RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (6-22, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB)
Archer lost in Baltimore on Sunday after he allowed five earned runs on eight hits over just 3-2/3 innings of work. He looks to right the ship, and end the season on a high note, after dropping five consecutive decisions for the first time since June 11-July 15, 2016 (6). Over that span he has allowed 21 runs over 16-2/3 innings, making for a discouraging stretch.
Castro was handed a loss after he allowed two runs on one hit and three walks over a 1-2/3 inning relief appearance against Boston. He struck out two. The right-hander hasn’t started a game this season, so I wouldn’t expect him to pitch deeply on Saturday. In nine innings of relief work this season against Tampa Bay, Castro has allowed four runs (two earned) on eight hits and and three walks. He has struck out three. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (1-1, 2B, BB), Adeiny Hechavarria (1-2), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2), Evan Longoria (1-4, RBI, 2BB), Logan Morrison (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Daniel Robertson (1-3), Steven Souza Jr. (2-5, 2B, RBI)
Snell suffered a loss on Tuesday (his first since July 24) when the Yankees chased him after just one inning — snapping a 10-start unbeaten streak (the longest of his career). The poor start came on the heels of his best outing of the season, a 7 IP/2 H/0 ER/5 K outing against the Cubs.
Gausman wasn’t slated to start again this season, however, with Jeremy Hellickson unavailable due to a back issue, Showalter will hand him the ball for one final outing. He’s coming off a loss to Pittsburgh in which he allowed six runs in just four innings of work, but prior to that he performed to a 2.25 ERA in four September starts. The 26-year-old right-hander, that owns a 4.81 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over 179-2/3 innings this season, Blanked the Rays over six innings on July 24 while fanning eight. Key Matchups: Curt Casali (3-8, 2B, RBI), Lucas Duda (1-4), Trevor Plouffe (4-9, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Cesar Puello (1-2, RBI), Wilson Ramos (2-8, HR, RBI), Mallex Smith (2-4, 3B, BB), Jesus Sucre (2-6, 2 2B, RBI)