The Tampa Bay Rays put their three-game skid to bed Thursday night, salvaging the series finale against the Minnesota Twins by a 5-4 margin. Tampa Bay ended the series against Minnesota 2-½ games back in the AL Wildcard race, as the team prepares for another critical three-game series against the Kansas City Royals, starting Friday.
At 5-5 in their last 10 games, the Rays have waffled in .500 mediocrity. Never really on the same page, when the hitting has been good, the pitching has not. The opposite holds true. Still, of their eight most recent losses, the Rays have been in all but two. Yet despite hitting .274 over the last 14 days, they just couldn’t seem to get that all important key hit wRISP. And when they could, the bullpen blew the lead late. Suffice it to say, if Tampa Bay is going to put together a legitimate run in the last 35 games of the season, consistent play is key.
The Royals have proven to be a formidable opponent again this season. At 7-3 over their last 10 games, it’s not going to be easy for Tampa Bay. If there’s one positive, at least the Rays don’t have to face Johnny Cueto. In any case, when you look at the offensive peripherals over the last 14 days, both teams are evenly keeled. Then again, both were fairly close to one another in July when the Royals swept the Rays in four games — Kansas City, who scored 33 runs in that series, outscored Tampa Bay by 17. For the Rays, they key will be to get ahead of the Royals early, and hold the lead late.
Kevin Cash will call upon the services of Erasmo Ramirez (10-6, 3.44 ERA), Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 3.02 ERA), and Nathan Karns (7-5, 3.69 ERA) over the next three days. They’ll be opposed by Edinson Volquez, Kris Medlen, and Danny Duffy. Ramirez was handed a no-decision on August 22 against the Athletics when he allowed four earned runs on eight hits in seven innings. He is 5-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 13 appearances at the Trop this season. Like Erasmo, Odorizzi receive a no-decision against the Athletics on August 23 after he allowed just two runs on three hits in six innings. He is 3-2 with a 2.20 ERA in nine starts at Tropicana Field this season. Simply put, Karns was not good on Tuesday night, allowing five runs on four hits and five walks. He has allowed first-inning runs in four consecutive starts.
Edinson Volquez (11-7, 3.35 ERA): Volquez wasn’t at his peak on Sunday, but ate up 6-2/3 innings, allowing six earned runs on nine hits, while striking out five. Despite the rough outing, he has three quality starts in the month of August, but has just a 1-2 record to show for it. Volquez held the Rays to one run on five hits in five innings of work on July 7. Key matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera (3-10, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Logan Forsythe (1-3, 2B), Brandon Guyer (1-4, BB), John Jaso (3-7, 2B, HR, RBI, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-5), Evan Longoria (4-12, 2B, 3 RBI), Daniel Nava (1-3), Grady Sizemore (2-7, HR, RBI, BB).
Kris Medlen (2-0, 3.10 ERA): Medlen won his first start of the year on Monday, allowing three runs on five hits over six innings. He fanned six and didn’t walk a batter. Medlen showcased excellent control, as he threw 49 strikes in 69 pitches and faced just one three-ball count all night. Medlen had a pristine 1.9 BB/9 over 335 innings from 2012 through 2013. The 29 year-old righty boasts a 92 mph sinker that he uses to coax grounders, a whiff worthy 79 mph curveball, an 85 mph change-up with a lot of backspin, and a 92 mph two-seamer that he uses to force poppers. Key matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera (1-3), Logan Forsythe (2-7), James Loney (3-7, 2B, RBI), Daniel Nava (1-1, 2B, RBI).
Danny Duffy (7-6, 4.13 ERA): Duffy earned the win after allowing two runs on five hits and two walks over 5-2/3 innings Tuesday. He struck out five. Duffy drew 12 swinging strikes in just 91 pitches, although he did enough to get a lead to the ‘pen. Duffy has been much better since his return from the DL on June 24 — in 12 starts (70-2/3 innings), the 26 year-old lefty has a 3.14 ERA and a 36/23 K/BB. He, however, doesn’t pitch deeply into games. Duffy relies primarily on his 94 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in an 82 mph, 94 mph sinker, 86 mph change-up, and 79 mph curveball. Key matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera (4-9, 2B, BB), Evan Longoria (1-2, RBI).
— OF Joey Butler, who was recalled from Triple-A Durham on Thursday, went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the win over Minnesota.
— Kevin Kiermaier is 8-for-12 during a four-game hitting streak.
— Rays closer Brad Boxberger spoke on the importance of getting back in his groove after picking his 31st save on Thursday:
Brad Boxberger on the importance of getting back in his groove after picking up a save Thursday. https://t.co/SxWkrHZMcN
— FOX Sports Florida (@SunSportsFOXFL) August 28, 2015
— Seriously everyone, only 28,212 fans attended the last three games combined. Look, your team is still in the hunt for the playoffs. Get out to the Trop and support your boys!
— The Rays announced they will have a video tribute to the beloved former utility-man Ben Zobrist before the game Friday. Zobrist, who played 1,064 games over nine seasons with the Rays, is batting .337 in 26 games with the Royals and has recorded six hits in 14 at-bats over his last four contests.