Despite a sour start to their most recent home-stand, the Tampa Bay Rays left St. Petersburg on a high-note, sweeping the highest scoring team in the American League in three games. They were also able to finish their most recent nine game home-stand with a successful 5-4 record — giving them a .500 home record for the first time this season. Tampa Bay is now 11-8 and in the midst of a five game win streak.
Next stop the Bronx, where the Rays are set to start a three game set against the Yankees on Monday.
Conventionality aside, I decided to call an audible and compare where the Rays currently sit — 19 games into 2015 season — with that of the previous season.
2014 Record: 9-10
2015 Record: 11-8
2014 Run Differential: +1
2015 Run Differential: +5
2014 Runs Averaged Per Game: 3.95
2015 Runs Averaged Per Game: 4.3
2014 Runs Allowed Per Game: 3.90
2015 Runs Allowed Per Game: 4
2014 Offensive Line Through the First Month of Play: .249 BA/.332 OBP/.379 SLG/.711 OPS/.318 wOBA/.287 BABIP/.130 ISO
2015 Offensive Line Through the First Month of Play: .239 BA/.324 OBP/.398 SLG/.722 OPS/.321 wOBA/.289 BABIP/.159
2014 ERA and FIP though the First Month of Play: 4.41 and 3.77
2015 ERA and FIP though the First Month of Play: 3.75 and 3.79
2014 Longest Winning Streak: 4
2015 Longest Winning Streak: 5
2014 Longest Losing Streak: 4
2015 Longest Losing Streak: 4
2014 Times Shutout by Opponent: 3
2015 Times Shutout by Opponent: 2
2014 Times Opponent Shutout: 1
2015 Times Opponent Shutout: 2
2014 Most Runs Allowed: 12
2015 Most Runs Allowed: 12
2014 Most Runs Scored: 16
2015 Most Runs Scored: 12
2014 Number of Losses By Four Or More Runs: 5
2015 Number of Losses By Four Or More Runs: 3
2014 Win Precentage vs. the AL East: .444
2015 Win Precentage vs. the AL East: .563
I’m not bold enough to make a proclamation that Tampa Bay is better off without Joe Maddon;19 games does not a season make. However, what can be said when comparing apples to apples, the 2015 Rays are a much more competitive (and fun) team than the previous incarnation… And that’s even taking into consideration the fact that they’ve been massively short-handed from the get-go.
Tampa Bay’s current nine game/10 day road trip marks the first time this season the Rays will play in open air, after playing all 19 of their previous games under a roof (in Miami, Toronto, and St. Petersburg). No major league team has ever gone this far into a season playing all its games under a roof.
Tampa Bay was outscored 19-7 while batting a combined .202 in the prior series against the Yankees. However, the Rays outscored the Blue Jays 21-6 over the last three games, and look poised to replicate their success in new Yankee Stadium, where Tampa Bay has gone 13-6 since 2013. And while Evan Longoria batted a sluggish 1-9 in the three-game home sweep to the Yankees, his bat has heated up since the return of James Loney. Longo improved to 7-7 in his last two games and has gone 11 for 19 during the five game win streak — raising his batting average from .186 to .306, and reaching base in each of his last eight plate appearances.
Longoria was quick to credit the lineup for their recent success, telling the media,
Offensively, we’re top to bottom putting together good at-bats. It’s been fun to watch.
Adam Warren vs. Nathan Karns: Warren will face Tampa Bay for the second time in three starts, having recorded a no-decision in a four-inning effort on April 17. He is coming off a victory in a 13-4 shellacking of Detroit on Wednesday, allowing four runs and five hits in 5-2/3 innings. Karns threw a season-high 108 pitches in six innings Wednesday against Boston, his third consecutive start of 100-plus pitches.
Chase Whitley vs. Jake Odorizzi: Whitley has been recalled from Triple-A, a move that allows the Yankees to incorporate a sixth starter for the first time this year. Whitley is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA in 24 games last season. Odorizzi put together his fourth straight quality start Thursday night when he held the Red Sox to one run in 6-2/3 innings.
Masahiro Tanaka vs. Drew Smyly: After a few less than savory starts, Tanaka put together two solid outings — an April 18 win over the Rays and an April 23 no-decision at Detroit. He has allowed just one run and five hits in his last 13-1/3 innings, with two walks and 14 strikeouts. Smyly made his first start of the season Friday night against Toronto. He is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three career appearances at Yankee Stadium.
Adam Warren: As I wrote of Warren on the 17th, Warren has been compared to Kevin Correia and Zach Greinke for his four pitch repertoire — fastball (both four and two seam, averages 94 mph), a whiffy change-up (averages 85 mph, has good depth and run), slider/cutter (averages 86 mph, has good depth and run), and curveball (averages 80 mph, has decent depth and run). Like Greinke, Warren’s rising fastball is complemented by good sinking pitches. Warren also tends to get a lot of ground balls with his curve. Key match-ups: Asdrubal Cabrera (1-4), Logan Forsythe (2-6, HR, RBI), Brandon Guyer (1-3), Desmond Jennings (1-4, RBI, 3 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (1-4), James Loney (HR, 5 RBI), Evan Longoria (3-10, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-2).
Chase Whitley: Scouting reports have Whitley with a fastball in the low 90s, a change-up that drops into the mid to low 80s, a slider and a sinker. His change-up induced whiffs 23% of the time last season. Though his BB/9 fell dramatically over the last two seasons, it spiked up to 3.18 in Triple-A in his last 17 innings of work. Expect an attempt to force him to pitch over the plate by laying off his pitches below the zone (especially if they’re not quality pitches).
What more can be said about Whitley? In an interview with DRaysBay, Yankees blogger Neill Keefe thinks we should be excited to watch him throw Tuesday night:
If you’re a Rays fan, you should be celebrating the fact that you get to face Chase Whitley. He pitched to a 5.23 ERA in 75 2/3 innings for the Yankees last year (24 games, 12 starts). He doesn’t strike out many hitters and pitches to contact and has very underwhelming stuff. He relies heavily on location and if that location isn’t there then he will be out in the third inning and the Yankees will be in a massive hole. I’m prepared for his start to not go so well.
Masahiro Tanaka: Need I say anything about the split throwing hurler, who seems back on track? Key match-ups: David DeJesus (3-6), Brandon Guyer (1-2, 2B), James Loney (2-3).
— After a great start Sunday, Alex Colome could join the rotation by Friday when the team is in Baltimore. Colome earned the win in his rehab start on Sunday, posting an excellent 6 IP/4 H/1 ER/6 K line on an efficient 63 pitches (45 strikes). On a related side note, Jake McGee is slated to make the first of three rehab appearances on Tuesday.