Manuel Margot made his return to the roster this past weekend. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After winning three of four games against the Kansas City Royals, the Tampa Bay Rays are set for another four-game home series when they welcome the Los Angeles Angels into the Trop on Monday. The Angels dropped two of three to the Tigers.

At 65-55 on the season, the Rays enter play 10 games over .500. With Toronto and Seattle falling on Sunday, Tampa Bay is in a virtual tie for the top AL Wildcard spot, and has a 2.5 game lead over Minnesota, which also dropped Sunday’s contest.

Tampa Bay’s pitching staff came up big against Kansas City, which could only muster eight total runs over the last four days — an average of two runs per game. Over the last week, Rays’ hurlers combined for a 1.97 ERA and 2.76 FIP (2.99 xFIP) across the past 64 innings of work as of August 21. Compare that to Los Angeles, which has performed to a 4.58 ERA and 4.08 FIP (but a 3.87 xFIP) over the same stretch.

Pair that with a Rays’ offense which, with the exception of Friday’s contest, received timely hits when they were crucially needed. The fun part: while they averaged 4.25 runs per game against a poor, but scrappy, Royals’ ball club, and even though their luck appears to be improving from the last series to now, the runs did not score on fluke hits; the .298 BABIP over the last seven days speaks to that. Harold Ramírez reinserted himself into the lineup well, with one of the team’s most consistent hitters showing why he is so important to the lineup. Not only did he go 3-for-4 in Sunday’s series finale, and drive in two of the three runs, but he performed to a 174 wRC+ since he returned from the Injured List. That’s not to belittle the contributions of Yandy Díaz (202 wRC+, .308 ISO), Christian Bethancourt (187 wRC+, .429 ISO), Francisco Mejía (147 wRC+), Isaac Paredes (139 wRC+), and Taylor Walls (138 wRC+), and Randy Arozarena (127 wRC+, .292 ISO) who also have been nails over the same seven-day stretch.

Compare that to the Angels who, in spite of big contributions by Shoei Ohtani and Mik Trout, have put up a 74 wRC+ over the last seven days with a -7.0 wRAA. Detroit limited Los Angeles to just four runs. Ouch!

Tampa Bay is seeking revenge against the Angels after dropping two of three against them at the start of May, having been outscored 25-7.

Pitching Probables

Over the next four days, Kevin Cas will turn to Jeffrey Springs (5-3, 2.52 ERA), Corey Kluber (7-7, 4.33 ERA), Shane McClanahan (11-5, 2.29 ERA), and Drew Rasmussen (8-4, 2.82 ERA). Phil Nevin will counter with Tucker Davidson (2-3, 6.75 ERA), José Suarez (4-5, 4.12 ERA), a hurler to be named before Wednesday’s contest, and Patrick Sandoval (4-8, 3.14 ERA).

Jeffrey Springs struck out four across five innings while allowing a run on two hits and a walk against the Yankees. Springs shut down the Yankees, Andrew Benintendi aside — Benintendi accounted for both hits against the left-hander, a single in the second and a triple in the fifth. Springs recorded 10 groundouts and fanned Aaron Judge both times he faced him. Springs was removed after tossing 78 pitches. His 89.1 innings this season, are double his next-highest total in a season at the big-league level, so one wonders if he’ll see some innings management from Kevin Cash and company.

Tucker Davidson allowed two runs on four hits and one walk with three strikeouts in six innings against Minnesota on Sunday. Davidson served up a two-run homer to Byron Buxton in the first inning but bounced back to keep Minnesota quiet the rest of the way. Davidson rebounded from issuing five walks in his most recent start, on August 7, to fire 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (70% strike rate), including eight of the swinging variety. Davidson has surrendered eight runs on 16 baserunners with four strikeouts in 10 innings across two starts with the Angels. He relies primarily on a 93 mph four-seam fastball and an 87 mph hard slider that has short glove-side cut and some two-plane movement, while also mixing in a 79 mph curveball.

Corey Kluber allowed two runs on four hits and a walk over six innings against the Yankees on Wednesday. He struck out eight. The veteran kept New York off the board until the sixth inning, when Gleyber Torres launched a two-run homer. Even with the solid performance, Kluber has struggled to a 5.62 ERA and 1.31 WHIP across 49.2 innings (nine starts). On top of that, Kluber has allowed four runs or more in five of those nine outings. He surrendered eight runs on 11 hits (including two homers) in his previous start against the Angels.

José Suarez allowed three runs on four hits with five strikeouts across 5.1 innings. Suarez retired the first 16 batters he faced before surrendering four consecutive base hits — three of which came around to score — before forcibly exiting the contest. Including Tuesday’s start, Suarez had gone 22 innings without allowing an earned run, a stretch dating back to mid-July. Suarez maintains a 4.12 ERA and a 0.00 FIP on the season, with a 1.33 WHIP, and 66 strikeouts across 67.2 innings. The hurler relies primarily on a 93 mph four-seam fastball that has some natural sinking action, an 82 mph changeup that has slight cut action, and a 78 mph curveball that has sweeping glove-side movement, while also mixing in an 81 mph slider that sweeps across the zone, and a 92 mph sinker that has some natural sinking action. He is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA in two career starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Yu Chang (1-1), Yandy Díaz (1-3, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Isaac Paredes (1-1), José Siri (1-3, 2 BB)

Shane McClanahan allowed two runs on two hits while striking out eight and walking three over seven innings on Friday. After posting an ERA under two until July 26, McClanahan has regressed some since. From then on, the left-hander has allowed 13 earned runs across 23.2 innings for a 5.04 ERA, although he’s allowed just two runs in each of his last two turns. McClanahan picked up a quality start Friday — his 16th of the season. McClanahan threw 90 pitches (56 for strikes, 62% strike rate) in the game and maintains a 2.29 ERA and a 2.73 FIP (2.31 xFIP) overall, with a 5.97 K/BB, and a 0.86 WHIP across 141.1 innings.


Drew Rasmussen allowed two runs on two hits and one walk over 5.2 innings against the Royals on Saturday. He struck out eight. Rasmussen allowed only one extra-base hit in the form of a double against Bobby Witt Jr. The right-hander has been particularly effective of late, with a 5.5 K/BB and a 0.83 WHIP over 38.2 innings over his last seven starts. Additionally, Rasmussen has been significantly better at the Trop with a 1.99 ERA and 0.75 WHIP across 58.2 innings.

Patrick Sandoval pitched a four-hit shutout while striking out nine and walking none on Friday against Detroit. Sandoval was incredibly efficient in his complete game shutout, throwing 73 of 97 pitches for strikes (75% strike rate), and limiting Detroit batters to four hits and no walks. The southpaw previously hadn’t completed six innings since July 9. He earned a quality start in the contest, his eighth of the season. Sandoval has earned a quality start in each game this season that he has gone six or more innings and in so doing, he lowered his ERA to 3.14 and his FIP to 3.09, with a 1.40 WHIP, and a 2.35 K/BB across 109.0 innings. He is 0-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two career outings (three starts) against the Rays. Key Matchups: Yandy Díaz (1-4), Brandon Lowe (1-3, HR, RBI), David Peralta (1-2, HR, RBI),Harold Ramírez (1-2)