Smile! The Rays return home on Friday when they start a three-game set against the Blue Jays. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After a 5-1 road trip, and a series win against the Kansas City Royals, the Tampa Bay Rays returned to the friendly confines of Tropicana Field, where they will start a three-game series against the Toronto Dunedin Blue Jays, on Friday. The Blue Jays are 2-4 on their current road trip, and they are coming off a two-game series split against the Boston Red Sox.

Tampa Bay won the first five games of its most recent road trip against the New York Yankees and Kansas City before losing the finale against the Royals on Wednesday. It was their first winning streak of more than two games all season. The Rays almost had their first perfect road trip since 2014 if not for a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning for Kansas City. Even so, Joey Wendle hit a pair of doubles and drove in three RBI, while Austin Meadows and Brett Phillips each had a pair of hits as well. Brandon Lowe also hit his third home run of the season in the game.

You’ve got to be pleased any time you win five out of six. That’s a good feeling. We were really close to sweeping an entire road trip; we just came up a little bit short. But the guys, they’ve played really, really well. We’ve competed great. We just came up short. Kansas City wouldn’t go away today and they ended up winning.

— Kevin Cash

Overall, Wendle leads the team with a .365 batting average with 15 RBI on the season, and Meadows leads the team with four homers. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has hit the second-most doubles in baseball with 38. Yet, the Rays’ pitching has been subpar thus far, performing to a 4.60 ERA. It should be noted though that they’ve held the opposition to four runs or fewer in seven of their last 12 games, so it would appear that things are getting better on the pitching side of things. In fact, Tampa Bay’s pitching staff has performed to a 4.02 ERA and 3.86 FIP over the last 14 days.

As for Toronto Dunedin, before their win on Wednesday, they had lost three consecutive games while scoring a total of four runs. The Blue Jays have won just two games in a row twice so far this season. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is leading the team with the seventh-best batting average in baseball (.383 BA) with four home runs, 12 RBI, and a 1.163 OPS, while Bo Bichette has a team-leading five long balls this season. Randal Grichuk, who has a .306 batting average, leads the team in the RBI department with 12. Overall, the Blue Jays’ pitching staff has the fifth-best ERA in the big leagues at 3.14, although that number has notched up a few points to a 3.28 ERA and 3.60 FIP over the last seven days.

This is the first meeting of the season between the two, both of which had an off day on Thursday. The Rays have gone 19-10 against the Blue Jays across the last two seasons, and 12-5 against them at the Trop over that stretch.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash is expected to turn to Tyler Glasnow (2-0, 0.73 ERA), Ryan Yarbrough (1-2, 5.40 ERA) — potentially behind and opener — and Josh Fleming (1-1, 0.87 ERA). Charlie Montoyo will counter with Steven Matz (3-0, 1.47 ERA), Robbie Ray (0-1, 1.80 ERA), and Hyun-Jin Ryu (1-2, 3.00 ERA).

Tyler Glasnow was shaky from the start, and, subsequently, walked four batters in his outing after walking just three all season. He left the bases loaded after a 30-pitch first inning, then stranded runners on the corners in a 24-pitch second. Both frames marked the highest single-inning pitch counts Glasnow had thrown this season, and both necessitated mound visits from pitching coach Kyle Snyder. However, Glasnow regained the feel for his high-90s fastball which he used to strike out three Yankees across perfect third and fourth innings.

I would just say that whole start was a grind. Out of 30 starts or whatever a year, you’re gonna have some like that. This one, from start to finish, was pretty taxing.

— Tyler Glasnow

Then in the fifth inning, Glasnow grimaced in pain and shook off his glove, consequently grabbing and stretching his left hand. Yet what appeared to be a scary situation turned out to be a bout with cramps, which Glasnow remedied by chugging water, Gatorade, and a Right Stuff energy packet.

It was so bad, I couldn’t stretch it out. And then it just kept getting worse and worse.

— Tyler Glasnow

Even though the right-hander described his outing as “weird,” “uncomfortable” and “sluggish,” Glasnow still befuddled the Yankees, allowing only one run on two hits while striking out seven on 105 pitches (62 strikes, 59% strike rate, 13 swings and misses, 12% SwStr%). He now has surrendered just two runs over 24-2/3 innings to open the 2021 season.

Steven Matz allowed one run on two hits and two walks over six innings while striking out five in the first game of a doubleheader against the Royals on Saturday. Matz has been outstanding thus far, rattling off three consecutive quality starts while just one run in each contest. Matz tossed 48 of 82 pitches for strikes in Saturday’s outing (59% strike rate) and boasts a 1.47 ERA and a 6.00 K/BB across 18-1/3 innings. Matz is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in two career outings (one start) against Tampa Bay. Matz relies primarily on a 95 mph sinker and an 86 mph change, while also mixing in a 78 mph curveball, and an 87 mph slider. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (1-1, HR, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (1-4), Manuel Margot (2-2, 3B, HR, RBI)

Ryan Yarbrough allowed one run on two hits and two walks while striking out four across five bulk innings against the Yankees on Sunday. Yarbrough had allowed six runs in each of his last two outings, although he was much more effective against the Yankees, with the only run he allowed coming via a solo home run in the bottom of the second. The southpaw lowered his ERA to 5.40 and boats a 1.34 WHIP across 21-2/3 innings and four outings this season.

Robbie Ray tossed five scoreless innings against the Royals on Sunday. He surrendered four hits and six walks while striking out three. Ray got into trouble early, as he found himself in a bases-loaded with one out situation in the first inning, yet he came away from that jam unscathed. He also found himself in a similar situation in the second and third innings, but he didn’t allow runs despite allowing 10 baserunners during his stint on the mound. Ray has pitched 10 innings in two starts this season, and he has had major control issues, posting a 6/9 K/BB in that stretch. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two career starts against the Rays. Ray relies primarily on a 95 mph four-seam fastball and an 88 mph slider, while also mixing in an 82 mph curveball. Key Matchups: Brandon Lowe (1-2), Francisco Mejía (1-2, 2B, RBI)

Josh Fleming gave up two hits and no walks across 5-1/3 scoreless innings against the Royals on Monday. He struck out three. Fleming got the hook after just 65 pitches (46 strikes, 71% strike rate), although he was more than efficient enough to qualify for the win. Fleming carries a 0.87 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP through 10-1/3 innings so far this season.

Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed four earned runs on eight hits and no walks while striking out two across five innings on Tuesday against the Red Sox. Ryu had little trouble getting through three scoreless innings to start the outing, although he ran into trouble in the fourth, allowing singles to the first two batters followed by a three-run homer to Xander Bogaerts. Entering the contest, Ryu had allowed only four earned runs across the first 19 frames of the season to go along with a 9.5 K/BB. He is 0-0 with a 3.72 ERA in two career starts against the Rays. Ryu relies primarily on a 79 mph changeup, an 86 mph cutter, and a 90 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in a 72 mph curveball. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (2-3, 2B), Mike Brosseau (1-4, 2B, RBI), Francisco Mejía (1-2), Yoshi Tsutsugo (1-4, HR, 2 RBI), Joey Wendle (1-2)

Noteworthiness

— Cody Reed, who was placed on the 10-day Injured List retroactive to April 17, received a Botox injection on Thursday to assist with his left thumb weakness. Per MLB.com, Reed’s appointment was supposed to be Wednesday, but Cash said there were “travel issues” related to the medicine, which caused the delay.

— Right-handed LOOGY Oliver Drake is eligible to be activated from the 60-day Injured List as of Friday.

— The Rays made multiple roster moves Friday afternoon. RHP Diego Castillo was placed on the COVID-19 IL due to side effects from vaccination, although he could return to the team as early as Saturday. Chris Mazza, who was optioned Thursday, was recalled. They also selected RHP Louis Head from the alternate site. Head is celebrating his 31st birthday Friday and will be making his big league debut.

Head was one of the more impressive non-roster invites to Spring Training, slashing 6 IP/9 K/1 BB/1 ER. Expect to see him in some games against the very right-handed heavy Blue Jays which could include George Springer, who may be activated this weekend.

Per Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) Head has a chance to become the 27th pitcher since Baseball Reference data is available (1901) to make a Major League debut on his birthday and the first player (pitcher or position player) to do so at 31 years or older. Currently the oldest player to make a debut on his birthday is Oakland’s Todd Stottlemyre (30th birthday) in 1995.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *