The Tampa Bay Rays return to action Friday night in Chicago, where they’ll square off with the White Sox in a three-game weekend series. The Rays are coming off a pair of mid-western series wins against the Cardinals and Royals (respectively), while the White Sox dropped three straight to the Minnesota Twins.
Tampa Bay just took two of three games from the Royals, after taking two of three in St Louis. They are now 7-3 over their last 10 games, while averaging 5.22 runs per game over that stretch. They still have their sights set firmly on a Wildcard berth, having moved to within 3-1/2 games of Minnesota for the last playoff spot, as well as four games behind the slumping Yankees, who will be taking on the Red Sox over the weekend.
The Rays have a excellent shot at closing that gap even more this weekend, not to mention a chance to move above the .500 mark for the first time since August 11. And while their offense has been an issue at times for Tampa Bay, they’ll be taking on a far weaker White Sox team. Dare I say they could primed to make a run* at things on the south side of the windy city?
Over the next three days Kevin Cash will lean on Blake Snell (2-6, 4.29 ERA, 4.44 FIP), Chris Archer (9-7, 3.66 ERA, 3.17 FIP), and Matt Andriese (5-1, 3.54 ERA, 4.64 FIP). Rick Renteria will counter with Reynaldo Lopez (0-1, 6.97 ERA, 6.61 FIP), Carlos Rodon (2-5, 4.27 ERA, 4.74 FIP), and Lucas Giolito (1-1, 2.77 ERA, 6.05 FIP).
Snell is coming off one of his best outings of the season, as he allowed just two runs on four hits over seven innings. He struck out seven. The southpaw has thrown six or more innings in four consecutive starts, and though his season numbers are still unsightly, Snell appears to have figured some things out in the second half, performing to a 3.66 ERA/3.69 FIP.
Lopez had been on the disabled list with a back strain since mid-August. Prior to the injury, Lopez made two starts but allowed eight runs on nine hits over 10-1/3 innings. The 23 year-old right-hander — who this season has relied upon a 95mph four-seam fastball with natural sinking action, and a whiffy 85mph changeup, while also mixing in an 81mph 12-6 curveball with little depth — has never faced the Rays.
Archer limited the Cardinals to one run on five hits over seven innings on Sunday. The only blemish on the right-hander’s ledger was a seventh-inning home run by Kolten Wong. Part of his recent spate of dominance has to do with the fact that Archer is walking fewer batters and striking more of them out, posting a 69/9 K/BB in his last 50-1/3 innings of work over his past seven starts. He is 2-0, but with a 5.40 ERA in four games (three starts) on the south side of Chicago, and 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in six starts against the White Sox.
Rodon gave up five runs on seven hits over five innings against Detroit in his last turn, his shortest start since July 25. The southpaw held the Tigers scoreless over the first two frames before allowing all five of his runs over the next two, leading to his fifth loss of the season. The outing snapped a string of five consecutive starts in which he had allowed two earned runs or fewer, although it’s difficult for him to pick up any wins with the White Sox offense. This season he has relied upon a whiffy 94mph four-seam fastball, a hard 85 mph slider, and a 93mph sinker, while also mixing in an 83mph changeup with natural sinking action. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (1-3, 2B), Evan Longoria (2-3, 2B, HR, RBI)
Andriese pitched the final three innings of the Rays’ win over the Royals on Monday to earn a save. He will be making his first start since June 10. Andriese is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one start (5-2/3 IP) against the White Sox.
Giolito tossed a gem in his second start with the south siders, throwing seven scoreless innings and allowing just three hits in a win over Detroit. Despite recording 12 swinging strikes, he collected just four strikeouts. Beware of the luck dragons! Over his two starts Giolito has performed to a .171 BABIP with a 100% LOB, but a 6.05 FIP. That is, he has been incredibly lucky. The righty has relied primarily upon a 93mph four-seam fastball this season, while also mixing in a 79mph 12-6 curveball, an 82mph cut-action changeup, a whiffy 92mph sinker, and an 85mph slider.
* … Cough, sweep them.
— Alright kiddos, it’s make or break time!
— Dave Haller (@HallerDave) September 1, 2017
— Something to ponder: Over the second half, the Rays bullpen has performed to a 3.27 ERA/4.10 FIP over 140-1/3 combined innings. The White Sox? 5.28 ERA/5.88 FIP over 150 innings. If Tampa Bay cannot feast on Chicago’s starters, there’s a fairly good chance the team will have a shot of breaking things open against the ‘pen. #SweepThem
— Reinforcements are on the way. Tampa Bay’s initial call-ups, with rosters expanding on Friday, are slated to be LHP Adam Kolarek and RHP Ryne Stanek, and C Curt Casali.
Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) wrote about the call-ups, as well as the prospective additions expected later in the month.
Kolarek made his big-league debut, at age 28, in late June and stuck around for a month, posting a 5.87 ERA in 11 games. He has been impressive at Triple-A Durham, with a 1.65 ERA in 41 games. Adding Kolarek gives the Rays a second lefty in their bullpen and more freedom in how they use top option Dan Jennings.
Stanek, the hard-throwing, long-haired 2013 first-round pick, made his debut this season and in two stints with the Rays posted a 6.39 ERA over 13 games. But he has been dominant at Durham, allowing two earned runs in his past 23 outings and a 1.21 ERA overall with eight saves in 37 games. He gives the Rays a high-velocity option with the ability to work multiple innings if needed.
Casali played parts of 2014-16 with the Rays, hitting a combined .195 with 18 homers and a .658 OPS. He has spent all 2017 with Durham, hitting .263 with five homers, 48 RBIs and a .698 OPS in 85 games. He isn’t likely to get much playing time but gives manager Kevin Cash more freedom to pinch-hit or pinch-run for the other catchers.
Additional callups are expected later in the month, as Durham wraps regular season play Monday then advances to the playoffs. OF Mallex Smith, INFs Trevor Plouffe and Daniel Robertson and additional pitchers, such as LHP Jose Alvaradoand RHPs Diego Castillo, Jaime Schultz and Chase Whitley, seem likely candidates.
— The Rays continued their waiver wire talks into Thursday night, but they did not make any waiver claim trades — either to add to or subtract from the roster — in advance of the midnight deadline for postseason eligibility.