Chris Archer put together his third consecutive quality start Sunday, holding the Blue Jays to only one run on five hits and four walks. Plagued by another unclean outing, Fernando Rodney was credited with his 24th save of the year after giving up a pair of runs — cutting a three-run lead to a run — after walking two and giving up a base hit. All of the Rays runs came thanks to home runs by Evan Longoria, Luke Scott, and Kelly Johnson.
A little house cleaning before I move on, with six ground outs and seven fly outs on the day, Archer didn’t conform to his 47.6%/33.3% GB/FB ratio once more — the last time he did this was in his start against the Twins on the 11th. I’d argue that the placement of the outfielders spoke volumes. True, he gave up a free pass five too many hitters. However, he also induced weak contact on more than a few potential hits — many of which were robbed by the outfielders in shallow left and right field. Also noteworthy, the number of bats he exploded. It would be safe to say that the Blue Jays are a very aggressive team in the batters box. I’d imagine pitch to contact was in the game plan all along, to which Archer did an outstanding job.
The Rays will start a four game set against the Red Sox Monday. It goes without saying, this is a big series, and the Rays stand to gain a lot of ground on the AL East leading Red Sox. However, this isn’t a season defining series. That is to say, no harm or foul if the Rays leave Boston Thursday with an even split on the series — hope for three-out-of-four or a sweep, be content with an even split. If anything, Tampa Bay is looking for a bit of payback for being kicked around by the Red Sox over their first 12 games against them.
Tampa Bay has won 21 games since the last time it faced Boston — 22 if you count the game they took from the Red Sox in that series — losing only six in that 27 game stretch. Meanwhile, the Sox have gone 6-6 in their last 12, taking two of their last four series. I’m certainly not implying that the Rays won’t face any challenges with the Red Sox this time through — Pedroia and Ellsbury are still dangerous, as are Ortiz and Napoli. However, Tampa Bay has charged back from the depths of the AL East, and that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Brandon Workman: Per Rotowire, “Workman had his start pushed up from Tuesday to Monday, the Boston Herald reports.” The scouting report on Workman, “Big-framed righty with well filled-out lower half. Not much projection left in his body. Raised arm slot from ¾ to closer to over the top. Fastball can sit 93-94 mph early in-game, but loses velocity as the game goes on. Tops out at 95 mph as a starter, but he may be able to reach back and add 1-2 mph out of the bullpen. Shows late finish when staying on top of the ball. Average fastball command. Has trouble consistently throwing to both sides of the plate. 87-90 mph cutter breaks late to glove side. Strong deception between fastball. Grades as a plus pitch. Good feel and command of offering to miss bats. Future out-pitch at big-league level. Fringe-average 75-77 mph curveball. Pitch is inconsistent due to wrist wrapping at times during release. Can show tight two-plane break and depth, but tends to roll and is loose with it. Average-to-solid-average potential with refined release and work staying on top of ball. Sprinkles in 83-85 mph change-up. Work in progress. Shows arm-side fade, but arm tends to slow down. Not an overly loose thrower. Effort in delivery wears him down multiple times through a lineup. Jerky nature of mechanics affects ability to repeat arm slot and overall command of arsenal as a starter. Projects as an 8th inning reliever or back-end starter.”
Jon Lester: Per Rotowire, “Lester (general soreness) is set to start Tuesday against the Rays after completing a 35-pitch bullpen session Sunday, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports.” The Rays demoralized Lester the last time they faced him, tagging him for seven runs (all earned) on eight hits (including three homers) in 4-2/3 innings. Otherwise, Lester has given up all of three runs in his previous two outings against Tampa Bay. Whatever, that he’s given up four or more runs in nine of his starts gives me hope that the Rays will face an erratic Lester. Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (9-30, 2B, 2 RBI, 5 BB), Desmond Jennings (8-22, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Matt Joyce (4-8, 2 HR, 6 RBI, BB), Jose Molina (8-23, RBI, 3 BB).
Felix Doubront: Per Rotowire, “Doubront allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits, walking three and striking out five over 6.1 innings of a 4-2 win against the Yankees on Friday night.” The Rays weren’t able to do anything against Doubront the last time they faced him, accumulating a paltry three base runners on three hits in eight innings of work. Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (4-15, 2 BB), Kelly Johnson (4-13, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Matt Joyce (1-3, BB), Evan Longoria (3-11, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 4 BB), Wil Myers (1-3), Luke Scott (3-11, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB).
John Lackey: Per Rotowire, “Lackey gave up four runs on 10 hits and zero walks, with seven strikeouts over 6.1 innings, in a loss to the Yankees on Saturday.” Lackey’s been pitching like a rejuvenated non mouth-breather of late, though the Rays have been able to tag him for nine runs in 10 innings of work this season. You know what they say about Lackey pitching with his mouth open… Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (8-15, 2 2B, RBI, 3 BB), Matt Joyce (6-18, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB), Jose Lobaton (1-3), James Loney (4-16, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (10-31, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI), Sean Rodriguez (2-5), Luke Scott (7-21, 4 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB), Ben Zobrist (11-27, 3 2B, 4 RBI, 5 BB).
- Rays rookie RF Wil Myers (wrist) sat out Sunday’s game, though he’s expected back Monday. He is 14-for-28 with six multiple-hit games in his last seven.
- Rays DH Luke Scott has gone 18-for-47 (.383) with four homers and 10 RBI during a career-best 13-game hitting streak.
- The Rays have outscored opponents 94-44 in going a major league-best 17-2 since June 29, climbing to within 1-1/2 games of the Red Sox. Tampa Bay leads the American League in batting average (.283) while the pitching staff has the lowest ERA (2.16) and the lowest WHIP (0.96). The Rays pitching staff has allowed only 40 runs this month.
- As Full Count from WEEI points out, “Kelly Johnson is coming off a big day on Sunday in which he hit his 15th home run of the season as well as a double in a 3-for-4 showing against the Blue Jays. Johnson has been on fire recently, going 8-for-12 in his last three games and batting .385/.429/.641 with four home runs over his last 11 games. Johnson’s average dipped as low as .233 in the beginning of the month, but the good stretch has bumped his line up to .256/.328/.474 in 79 games.”
- Red Sox DH Mike Napoli had two homers Sunday, including the decisive blast in Boston’s major league-best ninth walk-off victory. Boston improved to 27-8 when Napoli drives in at least one run, and has hit .311 while winning 20-of-26 at home since May 24th.
- Workman’s first career start was a memorable one – he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Oakland on July 14 but gave up a tying two-run homer and did not factor in the decision in a 6 1/3-inning stint.