The Rays welcome the Houston Astros into the Trop Friday, a day after they eked out a 4-3 win, completing a four game sweep of the Twins. Tampa Bay has now taken its fifth consecutive series, thanks to an outstanding 7-1/3 inning outing by Matt Moore. The Rays’ lefty snagged his 13th win of the year after striking out 10 Twins, carrying a no hitter into the sixth.
As Yahoo Sports points out, “Tampa Bay has won 12 of 13 to move a season-best 13 games over .500. Its last 11 games have come against the AL’s three worst teams – Houston (32-59), Chicago and Minnesota.” I certainly hope Yahoo Sports is not implying that the Rays success is predicated solely on who they’ve played, and nothing else. They also forgot to mention that the Rays winning ways stretch all the way back to the middle of June, when Tampa Bay took two from New York, two from the Blue Jays, and two from the Tigers.
The Astros have dropped 15 of 21, including three of four to Tampa Bay a week and a half back. Houston is hitting .209 and averaging 3.4 runs during a 2-10 stretch. Jose Altuve, the team’s leading hitter at .284, is batting .213 over those 12 games, while Chris Carter (who beat up on the Rays in the July 3 game), Brandon Barnes, Matt Dominguez and Castro are hitting a combined .174 with 46 strikeouts.
Jarred Cosart: “Cosart, acquired in a package of prospects from the Philadelphia Phillies for Hunter Pence at the trade deadline in 2011, makes his major-league debut. The 23-year-old was 7-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 18 appearances (17 starts) with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Cosart, a 38th-round selection by the Phillies in 2008, has 93 strikeouts and 50 walks over 93 innings this season.”
Dallas Keuchel: Per Rotowire, “Keuchel held the Rangers to two runs on six hits over five innings Saturday but did not factor into the decision.” Not much has changed for Keuchel in the last week and a half. Keuchel is a soft-tossing, groundball-inducing, control lefty with a deep assortment of pitches (four-seam fastball, sinker, cutter, changeup, slider, curve). Keuchel impressively gave up only nine earned runs in the month of June, spread out over 27 innings. Key match-ups: Sam Fuld (2-3, BB), Jose Lobaton (1-3, RBI), Sean Rodriguez (2-3, 2B), Ben Zobrist (1-3, 2B).
Erik Bedard: Per Rotowire, “Bedard fell to 3-5 Sunday as he allowed five runs (four earned) over 6.1 innings pitched. He walked five and struck out four.” Not much has changed for Bedard in the last week and a half. The Rays have beat up Bedard over the last few years, tagging him for nine earned runs on 18 hits in 14-1/3 innings of work. What’s more, Tampa Bay was able to tag Bedard for four runs on six hits and six walks on July 2nd. He’s got decent movement on his fastball, though his velocity is gone (averaging 89 mph). Bedard has excellent secondary stuff, however his command and control issues make him fairly hittable. Key match-ups: Desmond Jennings (4-7, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Kelly Johnson (1-3), James Loney (1-2, BB), Luke Scott (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB), Ben Zobrist (5-19, RBI).
- The Rays lead 3-1 this season, and are 9-7 overall. The Astros won two of three in their only visit, in 2003.
- Scott, Jennings, and Myers…Oh my! DH Luke Scott is batting .458 with two homers during a seven-game hitting streak. Not to be outdone, Wil Myers has gone 5-for-9 in the last two games after being rested Tuesday night. Desmond Jennings had eight hits in the series in Houston, driving in a career high-tying four runs July 2.
- Evan Longoria’s home run Thursday gave him 340 career extra-base hits, tying B.J. Upton for second on the club’s all-time list.
- The Rays start the day (Friday) in second place in the AL East, 3-1/2 games behind the Red Sox and two games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles.
- Icing on the cake. Matt Moore has been named as a replacement for Yu Darvish, and will join Ben Zobrist on the 2013 All-Star roster!