Brett Phillips did Brett Phillips like things in his return to action on Sunday. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After dropping two of three to the Tigers in Detroit, the Tampa Bay Rays will cap their nine-game, three-city road trip in Toronto, where they will start a three-game series with the Blue Jays on Monday. The red-hot Blue Jays put up 47 runs on the Orioles over the last four days and took three of four.

At 89-54 on the season, Tampa Bay enters Toronto 35-games above .500, and on top of the division by 9.0 games with 19 left to play. They also enter play with a magic number of 10 to clinch a playoff spot, and 11 for the division.

Tampa Bay was characteristically sharp with the bats from the seventh inning on in Detroit — having scored 10 runs in the seventh inning or later during the series. Yet, the bullpen was hit and miss. Not only did Pete Fairbanks, J.P. Feyereisen, Daniel Robertson, and Andrew Kittredge give up a 4-3 lead on Friday, as the Rays lost 10-4, they also gave up a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning on Sunday, with the team ultimately dropping the series finale in extra innings, 8-7. The relief corps has posted an obscene 6.75 ERA and 5.86 FIP over the last 29.1 innings.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays rattled off a bunch of wins in a row and jettisoned from fourth place and into a tie for second place thanks to an offense that has slashed .293 BA/.380 OBP/.574 SLG/.954 OPS/.281 ISO/155 wRC+/39.6 wRAA over the last two weeks. Over the weekend, Toronto averaged 11.75 runs per game against the Orioles, which is frankly crazy regardless of whom they were playing. And adding to that scary good potency, the Blue Jays pitching staff has stabilized, maintaining a 3.64 ERA and 3.91 FIP over the same stretch.

It’s safe to assume that the Tampa Bays’ pitching staff is underperforming to a large extent, while Toronto is overperforming to a smaller extent. The sooner the Rays pitching staff can bounce back the better given how good their upcoming opponent has performed of late. Gotta love relevant September baseball!

The Rays are 8-5 against the Blue Jays this season with a +9 run differential.


Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Ryan Yarbrough (8-4, 4.90 ERA) will pitch behind Collin McHugh (6-1, 1.46 ERA), while Drew Rasmussen (2-1, 3.25 ERA), and Micahel Wacha (3-4, 5.37 ERA) will pitch in the second and third games of the series. Charlie Montoyo will counter with Alek Manoah (5-2, 3.71 ERA), José Berríos (11-7, 3.52 ERA), and Robbie Ray (11-5, 2.69 ERA).

Collin McHugh has not pitched in a week. McHugh has faced Toronto four times this season, allowing one run over 7.1 innings of work. That run came on a misplayed fly ball.

Ryan Yarbrough got the start Monday and allowed seven runs over the first two frames, and threw 64 pitches (44 strikes, 69% strike rate, 8% SwStr%) during his time on the mound. It was an ugly start for Yarbrough, who now maintains a 7.38 ERA lifetime against Boston (53 ERA in 64.2 innings of work). Overall, Yarbrough has performed to a 4.90 ERA and a 4.36 FIP, with a 4.20 K/BB, and a 1.23 WHIP across 136.0 innings. He is 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three outings (two starts) against the Blue Jays this season.

Alek Manoah gave up three runs on five hits and three walks over 5.2 innings on Wednesday against the Yankees. He struck out four. The right-hander shut out the Yankees through four innings before surrendering three runs in the fifth inning. Manoah got the hook in the sixth inning after a single and a walk, finishing his day with 101 pitches (62 strikes, 61% strike rate). His control has been slipping of late, and he’s issued three free passes in three of his last four turns. Since the All-Star Break, Manoah has a 4.43 ERA and a 4.16 FIP, with a 1.16 WHIP, and 2.5 K/BB through 44.2 innings. He is 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Austin Meadows (1-4, 2 RBI), Francisco Mejía (1-2, 2B), Brett Phillips (1-2, 2B), Taylor Walls (1-2, 2B)

Drew Rasmussen allowed one run on six hits while striking out two across five innings on Tuesday against Boston. The only run the right-hander allowed came on a second-inning groundout. Rasmussen still isn’t pitching very deep into games, yet he hasn’t allowed more than one run in any appearance since July 5. He maintains a 3.25 ERA and a 3.02 FIP, with a 1.20 WHIP, and 2.83 K/BB across 61 innings on the season.

José Berríos allowed two runs on five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts across 6.2 innings against the Yankees on Thursday. The right-hander’s lone mistake was a two-run homer to Anthony Rizzo in the sixth inning. Berrios has a 13.0 K/BB with six runs allowed (five earned) across 20.1 innings in his last three starts. On the season, he has a 3.52 ERA and a 3.51 FIP, with a 1.11 WHIP, and a 4.21 K/BB through 166.1 innings. Berríos is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in four career starts against the Rays. Key Matchup: Kevin Kiermaier (3-12, 2B, HR, 2 RBI)

Michael Wacha got the start Friday and allowed a run on three hits (including a solo homer) across five strong innings. The right-hander struck out six on 68 pitches (47 strikes, 69% strike rate, 10 swings and misses, 15% SwStr%).

Wacha leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball, changeup, and curveball combination once again, while he has thrown just three total cutters in his last three combined starts. The right-hander reduced his ERA and FIP to 5.37 and 4.72 (respectively) and maintains a 1.39 WHIP and a 4.00 K/BB across 105.2 innings on the season. The right-hander threw two scoreless innings against the Blue Jays earlier this season.

Robbie Ray allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks over 4.1 innings against Baltimore on Friday. He struck out eight.

Ray became increasingly upset throughout the contest because the Orioles spat on his slider during his outing, swinging at the pitch just 35% of the time as compared to his season average of 55%. If the Rays can take a disciplined approach with Ray on the bump — which won’t be easy considering the absence of Wander Franco — they too could end his day early. On the season, the left-hander maintains a 2.69 ERA and a 3.45 FIP, with a 1.03 WHIP and 5.00 K/BB through 166 innings. Ray is 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in four starts against Tampa Bay this season. Key Matchups: Nelson Cruz (2-6), Kevin Kiermaier (1-4), Austin Meadows (2-6, 2B, RBI)

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