It’s been a wild and rocky two weeks for the Tampa Bay Rays, who lost their ace for the foreseeable future, dropped seven games in a row and fell out of first place in the AL East. Yet, the Rays took two of three from the Red Sox thanks in part to a wild walk-off win in the series finale and find themselves in first place once again, as they welcome the Los Angeles Angels into the friendly confines of Tropicana Field, where they will start a three-game series Friday. The Angels are coming off a sweep by the Giants.
The Rays enter play 14 games above .500 and in first place by a half-game in the AL East.
In spite of the recent seven-game losing streak, the Rays won back-to-back games against Boston to get off the schneid. They are now 10-2 in their last 12 games at the Trop. Tampa Bay improbably won despite being no-hit for the first 7-1/3 innings of the series finale with Boston.
The Angels lost their third consecutive game as they were upended in extra innings by the Giants on Wednesday. They enter the series fourth in the AL West race, 10-1/2 games behind the Astros for the top spot in the division. Los Angeles got two hits each from Juan Lagares, David Fletcher, and Jared Walsh (RBI) in the contest, yet the relief corps coughed up seven runs in the 13th inning and consequently fell 9-3.
Los Angeles has outperformed Tampa Bay by a 123 wRC+ to 89 wRC+ clip over the last 14 days. Dare I say they’ve also run into some good fortune? After all, they boast a combined .333 BABIP over that stretch, which is 28 points higher than their overall BABIP. Even so, the Angels have dropped four of their last 10 games, and three in a row. Despite having a good offense led by Shohei Otani, they can be pitched against. To that end, the Rays have run into some bad luck over the last two weeks, performing to a combined .269 BABIP, which is 20 points under their overall BABIP. They are a better team than the metrics over the last two weeks might indicate.
Tampa Bay swept the Angels in Anaheim in four games back in the first week of May. Even so, the Rays are 48-31 against the Angels since 2010, yet they are just 16-19 at home against them at home.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Josh Fleming (6-4, 3.59 ERA) behind an opener, Shane McClanahan (2-2, 4.03 ERA), and Ryan Yarbrough (4-3, 4.59 ERA) in some capacity. Joe Maddon will counter with Griffin Canning (5-4, 5.07 ERA), Alex Cobb (5-2, 4.41 ERA), and Patrick Sandoval (2-2, 3.69 ERA)
Josh Fleming allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five over 6-1/3 innings against Seattle on Saturday. The left-hander looked to be in for a short outing after a second-inning grand slam by J.P. Crawford gave Seattle a 5-2 lead, yet Fleming toughed out 6-1/3 innings on 110 pitches. While he served up five runs for the second time in his past three outings, he also posted four-innings of no-hit, no-run ball between the two appearances. He also effectively locked it in after the granny on Saturday. Fleming now owns a 3.59 ERA and a 4.21 FIP on the season, with a 1.07 WHIP and a 2.53 K/BB across 62-2/3 innings of work. He limited the Angels to three runs on six hits (including a homer) back on May 6, in Anaheim.
Griffin Canning gave up two runs on three hits and two walks over five innings against the Athletics on Wednesday. He struck out two. The right-hander exited after 69 pitches (45 strikes, 65% strike rate) in line for his sixth win of the season. Canning carries a 5.07 ERA and a 5.24 FIP on the season, with a 2.42 K/BB and a 1.40 WHIP through 55 innings. He is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in one career start against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Yandy Díaz (1-3), Kevin Kiermaier (1-3, 3B, RBI), Brandon Lowe (1-2, HR, RBI), Austin Meadows (1-3, 3B)
Shane McClanahan pitched six strong innings of one-run ball on Sunday, scattering three hits and a walk while striking out eight Mariners. McClanahan delivered the best game of his young rookie season, getting to six innings for the first time this season and ringing up eight batters on curveballs and some pretty nasty sliders. The only real damage done against him was a third-inning solo homer by Luis Torrens, who reached a 95 mph first-pitch fastball located just above the strike zone … Torrens deserves credit for making contact with a quality fastball. McClanahan now owns a 4.03 ERA and a 4.00 FIP on the season, with a 3.85 K/BB, and a 1.30 WHIP over 44-2/3 frames. The left-hander allowed two hits and two walks to the Angels on May 4, while striking out five.
Alex Cobb allowed one unearned run on three hits and two walks while striking out eight across 5-2/3 innings in his last turn. Cobb entered the contest having given up five runs in each of his past two starts, and he would have escaped without allowing any runners to cross the plate Friday if not for a sixth-inning error by Jared Walsh. The right-hander struck out eight. The former Ray maintains a pedestrian 4.41 ERA but a 2.40 FIP, with a 1.27 WHIP and a 3.75 K/BB across 49 innings of work. Cobb allowed two runs on five hits and five walks against the Rays on May 4 while striking out eight. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (2-5, 2B, RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (3-10, RBI, BB), Joey Wendle (4-12, 2 RBI, BB), Mike Zunino (5-13, 2B, HR, 9 RBI, BB)
Ryan Yarbrough covered just two innings on Tuesday against Boston, surrendering five runs on five hits and a walk while striking out two. Yarbrough has now been blitzed for 10 runs between his last two turns, raising his season ERA from 3.88 to 4.59. While he’s not necessarily at risk of losing his roster spot, expect Kevin Cash to role out an opener in front of him for the foreseeable future, and keep the lefty on a short leash. Yarbrough has a 4.36 FIP on the season, with a 1.20 WHIP and a 4.71 K/BB across 80-1/3 innings. He held the Angels to two runs on five scattered hits and two walks across five innings on May 5.
Patrick Sandoval allowed three runs on four hits and two walks while striking out nine across 5-2/3 innings on Saturday versus Detroit. Sandoval got into a jam in the sixth inning, resulting in his exit two outs in the frame as the Tigers had a sequence of four right-handed hitters due up. He, however, has yet to allow more than two earned runs in a start this season. The lefty has a 3.69 ERA and a 4.74 FIP on the season, with a 1.26 WHIP and a 2.67 K/BB across 39 innings. Sandoval gave up just one hit against the Rays on May 3 while striking out four and walking two in two relief innings. Key Matchup: Yandy Díaz (1-1)