After beating the reigning World Series champs Wednesday night, 8-1, the Tampa Bay Rays will duel it out with the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, in Baltimore. The Rays have won two of the last three, but just four of the last 10. The Orioles have lost three straight and six of the last seven. The season series is tied at six apiece.
The governor has yet to sign the Rays’ death warrant.
Tampa Bay’s offensive outburst Wednesday night kept the team’s improbable postseason* hopes alive going into this four-game set. Their attack was three-fold, and something they must continue to hone over the waning schedule, starting a month ago … erm, now.
First, say what you will about Chris Archer, however, he limited the mighty Chicago Cubs — a team that had averaged 5.33 runs per game in the previous series against the Cardinals — to just two runs. Furthermore, the pitching staff as a whole gave up only three combined runs over the last two games.
Simply put, the Rays pitching staff must continue to keep its team in ball games.
Second, Tampa Bay’s defense has been solid of late, punctuated by the play of Kevin Kiermaier and Adeiny Hechavarria. The Orioles may be a shadow of their former selves, however, they can and will punish mistakes. In short, pitching and defense are critically important.
Finally, the offense must perform as it had on Wednesday and Friday (September 15), when the Rays plated at least four runs in each game. Two and three run games likely won’t cut it, as evidenced by the fact that Tampa Bay had won just four of the last 11 games when the team scored three runs or fewer.
We gotta get back to doing that a little more often than maybe once every so often.
— Kevin Cash, on the Rays’ offense breaking loose to score some runs Wednesday night
Over the next four days Kevin Cash will lean on Matt Andriese (5-3, 4.63 ERA, 5.05 FIP), Alex Cobb (11-10, 3.63 ERA, 4.15 FIP), Jake Odorizzi (9-8, 4.46 ERA, 5.72 FIP), and Chris Archer (9-11, 4.02 ERA, 3.38 FIP). Buck Showalter will counter with Gabriel Ynoa (0-2, 5.00 ERA, 2.27 FIP) and Ubaldo Jimenez (6-10, 6.93 ERA, 5.89 FIP), and also likely with former Ray Jeremy Hellickson (2-5, 7.29 ERA, 6.57 FIP) and Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.24 ERA, 4.38 FIP).
Andriese lasted 4-1/3 innings in his last start Friday vs. Boston, the fifth time in 15 starts this season he did not finish five innings (two were injury-shortened starts). He, however, yielded two earned runs or fewer for the ninth time in 15 starts. Andriese is 1-3 with a 7.50 ERA in three games (two starts) against Baltimore. He has not faced the Orioles this season.
Ynoa is winless in two starts since joining the starting rotation in early September, and has yet to pitch into the sixth inning. He is aiming for his second win of the season against the Rays. This season he has relied primarily on an 85mph 12-6 slider, a 94 mph four-seam fastball with depth, and a 95mph sinker with run. The right-hander also has mixed in an 86mph changeup with arm side fade. Key Matchups: Adeiny Hechavarria (1-1, RBI), Wilson Ramos (1-1, RBI, BB)
Cobb took a loss to Boston on Saturday, in a 5.1 IP/3 ER outing. That prevented him from becoming the first Rays pitcher with four wins over the Red Sox in a single season. Nevertheless, the right-hander he has a 2.98 ERA in 16 starts since June 9, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 14 of those 16 starts.
Jimenez fanned 10 batters and allowed just one earned run over five solid innings in his last turn. It was the second-most strikeouts he’s had in a game this season. He, however, is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay this season, while averaging under four innings of work in each outing. Key Matchups: Adeiny Hechvarria (4-7, 2B, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (3-12, 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (7-22, 2 HR, 8 RBI), Logan Morrison (6-14, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB), Wilson Ramos (1-2, 2B), Daniel Robertson (1-2)
Odorizzi no-hit the Red Sox into the sixth inning on Sunday before he allowed a walk and a two-run homer to Jackie Bradley Jr. The right-hander had a live fastball, coaxing 15 swings-and-misses on his 96 pitches, including 10 on his 61 fastballs. Odorizzi has now allowed just three earned runs across 16-1/3 innings in his last three starts.
Hellickson, in his last start against the New York Yankees on Sunday, was shelled for six runs on four hits (including two home runs) and four walks over just three innings of work. The former Ray has given up three runs or fewer in only four of his nine starts as an Oriole, while performing to a 7.28 ERA/6.16 FIP since the All-Star break. Suffice it to say, the right-hander hasn’t looked nearly as good as he did in his year and a half stint with the Phillies. Key Matchups: Lucas Duda (7-14, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (3-10, HR, 3 RBI)
Archer went six innings Tuesday against the Cubs, his longest start since August 27 (vs. St. Louis) — snapping a streak of three consecutive starts of four innings pitched or fewer. He has lost four straight decisions for the third time in his career, although considering that Archer’s last three appearances had seen him give up 13 runs (11 earned) in a grand total of seven innings, this represents a big leap forward.
Bundy, like Hellickson before him, was lambasted in his last start, allowing six runs on seven hits and a walk over 4-1/3 innings, while fanning just a pair. The right-hander is 1-1 but with a 5.19 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Kevin Kiermaier (2-7, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (5-15, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Brad Miller (2-8, HR, RBI), Logan Morrison (5-12, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB), Mallex Smith (2-5, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (3-10, 2B, HR, RBI)
— *Adam Sanford (DRaysBay) writes that there are a few scenarios which could net an AL Wildcard berth for the Rays, one of which involves a six-way tie between the other contenders.
— Former Ray (and current Oriole) Tim Beckham told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) he’s more focused on the “start of a new journey” with Baltimore, and that his career with Tampa Bay is “in the past.”
— The Rays activated Xavier Cedeño from the 60 day-DL Thursday afternoon.
#Rays outright INF Danny Espinosa off the 40-man roster. LH Xavier Cedeño will be activated in his place from the 60-day DL.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 21, 2017