The Tampa Bay Rays will hit a prove your mettle part of the schedule on Friday, when they kick off a three-game series against their AL East rival New York Yankees at Tropicana Field.
The Rays looked as though they were turning things around after collecting 38 runs during a four-game win streak, yet they have gone 1-5 since while allowing just over six runs per game in that span. Tampa Bay fell a half-game behind the Yankees after dropping three of four in a home/home series against the Miami Marlins.
Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) wrote about the struggles among the front five on Friday, saying,
And when the front four to their touted rotation — Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore — has a combined 8-16 record, a 4.46 ERA and has allowed 216 hits in 220 innings, the job is not getting done.
Topkin also included a rather telling quote from the Rays skipper,
We came in, a lot of hype about our pitching staff,” manager Kevin Cash said. These guys take a lot of pride in what they do. They’re going to figure it out, and when they do, we’re going to get hot. …But we need them to pitch better. We need them to get going. They’re fully aware of that.
And while the starters have collected just 26 quality starts in 44 games, the hope is that they can snap out of this funk, starting now.
The Yankees dropped two straight following a six-game win streak ahead of a lengthy 10-game road trip. And while they continue to receive stellar pitching, logging seven quality starts in their last eight games, their offense hasn’t been so hot ― especially on the road. New York is putting up a lackluster combined .234 BA/.297 OBP/.344 SLG/.641 OPS/.283 wOBA/-20.2 wRAA slash line away from new Yankee Stadium.
Kevin Cash will throw Chris Archer (3-5, 5.16 ERA), Matt Moore (1-3, 5.47 ERA), and Jake Odorizzi (2-2, 3.46 ERA) over the holiday weekend. Joe Girardi will counter with Masahiro Tanaka (2-0, 3.24 ERA), Michael Pineda (2-5, 6.24 ERA), and Nathan Eovaldi (5-2, 3.95).
Rays series starters
Archer lasted just three innings on Sunday, allowing six runs on eight hits and a walk while fanning four in a 9-4 loss to the Tigers. The righty appeared to be turning things around, posting a combined 3.18 ERA in his first three starts in May, yet he flopped in the less than ace caliber start. While his impressive 11.18 K/9 is a career high, so are his 4.47 BB/9, 1.72 HR/9, and 3.50 BABIP. Archer will take another stab at righting the ship against a Yankees offense that hasn’t been very good on the road this season.
Archer maintained a positive mental attitude about his struggles, telling MLB’s official website,
I’ve kept the team in the game. So mechanical, there’s no adjustments. Just need to throw pitches in better locations.
Curt Casali, whose caught Archer over the last handful of games, also waxed positive,
He was nasty. But sometimes it’s too nasty. Sometimes his stuff is so good it’s hard to control. And I completely get it. He gets it, too. He knows he needs to be better. The team needs him to be better. He’s going to get back to the drawing board tomorrow and get back to work and help us in his next start.
Moore gave up five runs on 10 hits and a walk with just three strikeouts over five innings on Monday. The southpaw allegedly worked with pitching coach Jim Hickey to address a hitch in his delivery, yet the results suggest otherwise. Moore wasn’t very whiffy (seven whiffs in 88 pitches) and allowed three extra-base hits, including a home run. He allowed fewer than one long ball per nine innings in his first three starts of the season, however, he’s given up 17 in just 109 innings (1.4 HR/9) since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2015. His ERA is now up to 5.47 (4.52 FIP), and don’t expect things to get better until he can figure out how to efficiently put batters away, and keep the ball in the yard.
Odorizzi blanked the Marlins on two hits and three walks while striking out seven to earn his second win of the season on Tuesday. Be that as it may, he threw 107 pitches which forced an early exit, while the bullpen barely held onto to lead as the Rays narrowly eked out a victory. We all miss the efficient Jake of 2015.
Yankees series starters
Tanaka scattered five hits, an earned run, and two walks over seven strong innings on Saturday. He fanned four. Tanaka was efficient, needing just 92 pitches (13 pitches per inning, 64 strikes) overall, collecting first-pitch strikes on 16 of 28 batters. This after he allowed 15 hits and 10 earned runs in his previous two starts. Tanaka Stymied Tampa Bay on April 23, allowing just two runs on five hits and a walk over seven innings, striking out seven. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (2-3, 2B, RBI), Brandon Guyer (1-2, 2B)
Pineda earned his second win of the season on Sunday, when he allowed three runs on six hits and a walk with six strikeouts across six innings. Despite collecting his first quality start since May 6, Pineda is still owns a gaudy 6.34 ERA, although his 11.88 K/9 in a three start stretch is impressive. The Rays beat up on the righty on April 24, tagging him for seven runs on 10 hits including four home runs. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (1-3, HR, RBI), Desmond Jennings (3-8, 2B), Brad Miller (2-7, 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Steve Pearce (3-10, HR, RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (6-12, 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI)
Eovaldi limited Toronto to two hits and three walks over six innings Tuesday night, collecting five strikeouts along the way. The two hits surrendered by Eovaldi were singles. The three walks, however, tied a season high for Eovaldi, although he’s done a decent job of limiting his free passes this season ― 5.9% over 54-2/3 innings. In 2016, he has relied primarily on a blazing 98 mph four seam fastball that generates a lot of grounders, and an 89 mph worm-burner of a splitter. He’s also mixed in a whiffy 89 mph slider and an average 76 mph curveball bereft of movement. Key matchups: Hank Conger (2-6, 2B, BB), Evan Longoria (1-4), Steve Pearce (1-3), Steven Souza Jr. (2-4)
― Despite outscoring the Yankees 13-10, the Rays are 1-2 this season against New York.
― RBI Machine Logan Morrison is 16-31 with three homers and 10 RBI over the last 10 games.
― Mark Teixeira will miss at least the first two games of the series after receiving cortisone shots in his neck.
― Alex Rodriguez pulled an 0’fer in four at-bats Thursday in his first game back from the disabled list.
― Jacoby Ellsbury is a staggering 16-24 against Archer.