The Tampa Bay Rays grueling stretch of play continues Monday in Kansas City, where they begin a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium. The Rays ended a five-game losing streak by taking down Baltimore in the second contest of a doubleheader on Saturday, only to be shellacked 17-1 in the series finale on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Royals split their first two against Cleveland, then dropped the rubber game of the series on Sunday.
Suffice it to say, Tampa Bay has quickly developed some holes in its offense, although the run production finally returned up in game two of the doubleheader on Saturday, with the Rays scoring 10 runs against Baltimore. But in spite of that, they could muster just one late run against the Orioles the following day, and looked pretty abysmal along the way. Even so, they have and opportunity to turn things around against an equally uninspiring Royals squad.
Kansas City has had some wild results lately, although their biggest problem over the past week has been the pitching staff. The Royals have performed a 7.93 ERA over their last five games, with the starters pushing double-digits in the runs allowed department. The only thing that’s saved the team is the offense which has put up double figures in two of those contests.
The Rays, historically, have not fared well against the Royals, especially at Kauffman Stadium — going 3-12 since their last winning season (2013) … although they did take two-of-three in Kansas City last season, outscoring the Royals 19-9 in the process.
Kevin Cash will throw Ryan Yarbrough (0-2, 6.52 ERA), lean on the bullpen (7-10, 4.93 ERA), and Jake Faria (3-2, 5.09 ERA) over the next three days. Ned Yost will counter with Eric Skoglund (1-2, 6.34), Ian Kennedy (1-4, 4.61), and former Ray Jason Hammel (0-4, 6.13).
Ryan Yarbrough struggled in his last start, allowing five earned runs on six hits over five innings of work. However, he had a perfect pitching ratio of seven strikeouts to no walks. In fact, over his last three appearances (two relief efforts prior to the start), he’s performed to a 17 strikeouts to 0 walks ratio. His .385 BABIP yet 3.55 FIP over the last 14 days suggest that some bad luck may be in play. He’ll try to right the ship against the Royals in the series opener on Monday.
Eric Skoglund gave up three earned runs on five hits over 6-1/3 innings of work against Baltimore on May 9th, finishing the outing with a 3-to-1 K/BB over 86 total pitches (56 strikes, 65% strike ratio). He’s now allowed three home runs over his last three appearances — one homer in each — and posted three no-decisions over his last four starts (the other being a win against the White Sox). This season, the southpaw has relied primarily on his whiffy 92 mph four-seam fastball, 92 mph sinker, and a hard 81 mph 12-6 curveball, while also mixing in a hard 87 mph worm-killer changeup. This will be his first appearance against Tampa Bay.
I will update this piece when Tuesday’s starter for Tampa Bay is announced.
Ian Kennedy was lit up by Baltimore to the tune of nine earned runs over four innings in a loss on Thursday. He struck out four and walked two. Baltimore hit three home runs off Kennedy in his first truly rough outing of the season. Previous to that start, Kennedy had posted a tidy 2.92 ERA with four quality turns over seven outings. It is difficult to read too much into one bad outing from Kennedy. This season he has relied primarily on his 93 mph four-seam fastball with some added back spin, while also mixing in a 79 mph knuckle curveball with sharp downward bite, a firm 86 mph Vulcan grip changeup, and an 88 mph worm-killer cutter. The right-hander is 1-5 with a 5.76 ERA in six career starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (1-3, 2B), Matt Duffy (5-14, 2B, BB), Carlos Gomez (6-18, 2 RBI), Adeiny Hechavarria (3-12, 2B), Brad Miller(3-6, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB)
Jake Faria took a loss against the Orioles on Friday, after he coughed up seven runs on eight hits and a walk over six-plus innings. He struck out three. The right-hander would have come away with a quality start if he’d exited after six innings, but Faria instead came out for the seventh and, after a solo homer by Mark Trumbo, loaded the bases with nobody out on a single, a hit by pitch and a walk before getting the hook in favor of Ryne Stanek, who served up a grand slam to Manny Machado. Previous to that outing, Faria threw three quality starts in four tries, including a dominant 8 IP/3 H performance against Detroit two turns ago.
Jason Hammel, the former Ray, allowed nine runs over 3-2/3 innings in his last start against Cleveland, four of which were scored in the first inning. He is still searching for his first win of the season, and has posted just three quality starts of his eight total. The scouting report on Hammel: this season he has relied primarily on his 92 mph sinker with two plane movement and an 85 mph slider, while also mixing in a 92 mph four-seam fastball, a 78 mph curveball with sharp downward bite and glove side movement, and a firm 86 mph changeup with slight arm side fade. He is 2-3 with a 4.89 ERA in seven career starts against his former team. Key Matchups: Matt Duffy (1-2), Brad Miller (2-8, HR, 2 RBI), Wilson Ramos (4-12, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Mallex Smith (2-2)
— Following Sunday’s game, RHP Andrew Kittredge was optioned to Triple-A Durham. Kittredge faced seven batters total and got none out, with six of them coming around to score. Cash said he isn’t sure what’s wrong with Kittredge, who has been used as a spot starter and long reliever, given his strong spring, suggesting repertoire, plan of attack and diminishing confidence, writes Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times).
He’s just not missing bats like he’s capable of, Cash said.
— CJ Cron extended his career-high on-base streak to 19 games over the weekend.