After splitting the series with the Angels, and going 4-3 over the span of their most recent home-stand, the Tampa Bay Rays are headed up to the Great White North to take on the Minnesota Twins.
Tampa Bay finished its four-game series against the Angels with two consecutive wins. The team came away with an impressive 4-0 win over the Halos, in which Colby Rasmus drove in all four of the Rays’ runs. He finished the afternoon matinee with a pair of doubles. He (along with Logan Morrison and Corey Dickerson) has been one of the best hitters for the Rays, notching a .538 slugging percentage thus far.
Minnesota completed a sweep of the Orioles with a 4-3 win on Wednesday. The Twins won all three games against the Orioles in Baltimore, and now have won four in a row and six of their last seven. Despite a collective .250 team batting average, Minnesota’s lineup has been good enough to keep the Twins atop the division with a two-game lead over Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the Rays are stuck in the middle of the AL East, trailing the division-leading Yankees by five games. Yet when you look deeply at some of the peripherals, such the Pythagorean and BaseRuns Expectations — both of which take into account run differentials — Tampa Bay actually has a very competitive ball-club that is outperforming Minnesota in some respects.
The Rays are performing at a 27-23 Pythagorean Expectation, and a 29-21 BaseRuns Expectation, thanks to a +41 run differential. Compare that to the Twins, who are performing at a 22-21 Pythagorean Expectation, and a 23-20 BaseRuns Expectation, due to their +11 run differential.
Even with their overall record, the Twins are two games under .500 at Target Field, where this three-game series will be played. Moreover, the Rays are 6-2 in their last eight road games, and 4-1 in their last five games following a win.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will throw Chris Archer (3-3, 3.76 ERA, 3.06 FIP), Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.14 ERA, 4.50 FIP), and Alex Cobb (4-4, 3.82 ERA, 4.26 FIP). Paul Molitor will counter with Hector Santiago (4-2, 3.96 ERA, 4.85 FIP), a pitcher to be named before Saturday’s ball-game, and Kyle Gibson (7-2, 1.80 ERA, 4.10 FIP).
Archer fanned a season-high 12 over 6-1/3 innings against the Yankees, however, he took the hard luck loss after he allowed three runs in the second inning on a day when the offense managed just four hits. The outing brought Archer his fifth career 10 strikeout loss.
Santiago couldn’t notch a victory in his last outing against the Royals; a five inning, eight hit and three earned run no-decision. He only struck out one batter in that start. So far this season, the 29 year-old left-hander has relied primarily on his whiffy 92 mph four-seam fastball, and an 83 mph circle changeup with some arm-side fade. He also has mixed in a 77 mph worm burner curveball when he needs a ground ball. He is 1-0 with a 4.86 ERA in four starts against the Rays. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (1-3), Michael Martinez (1-1), Evan Longoria (4-9, 2B), Derek Norris (3-11, 2 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-4, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Jesus Sucre (2-2, 2B, HR, 2 RBI)
Odorizzi collected his fourth quality start of the season Monday when he held the Angels to two runs over six innings of a no-decision. In two career starts at Target Field, Odorizzi is 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA.
Cobb has made consecutive starts of at least seven innings, totaling four such outings this season. He, however, has allowed four runs or more in eight of his 15 post Tommy John surgery starts, compared to 20 of 81 prior to going under the knife. He allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks across 7-1/3 innings in Tuesday’s loss to the Angels. He struck out five.
Gibson allowed six runs on seven hits through five innings against the Orioles in his first outing since being recalled from Triple-A. Five of those runs came in the second inning alone. So far this season he is 1-4 with an 8.62 ERA over seven starts, with just 21 strikeouts. He is also 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA in five starts against Tampa Bay. Gibson has relied on a 92 mph ground ball inducing sinker (that he throws with a two-seam fastball grip), and a fly ball heavy 92 mph four-seam fastball this season. He has also mixed in a ground ball coaxing 84 mph slider and 83 mph changeup, and a whiffy 79 mph curveball. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-1, BB), Peter Bourjos (2-5, 2B), Kevin Kiermaier (3-5, 2B, BB), Evan Longoria (4-13, 2B, 4 RBI, BB), Colby Rasmus (2-6), Steven Souza Jr. (1-2)