After dropping two of three in the Bronx — wherein Tampa Bay was shellacked 20-7 over the final two games of the series versus New York — the Rays head to the great white north where they will start a five-game, four-day series against the Blue Jays. Toronto took two of three from the Rangers.
After splitting the first two games of the series, the Rays enter play 18 games over .500, and 0.5 games up on the Blue Jays in the division and the American League Wildcard race.
While Friday’s contest in the Bronx was easily what the majority of people expected out of the previous series against the Yankees — you know, good pitching and timely hitting — it, otherwise, did not make for the best of times. Outside of the opener, Corey Kluber and Luis Patiño surrendered a total of 20 combined runs across 2.2 innings. The only bright side was the ‘pen, which allowed three total runs across 22.1 innings in the three-game series. Put bluntly, it made for an embarrassing end to an important series against a team that had been scuffling. The wheels fell off at precisely the wrong time.
They’ll be facing a Toronto ball club that is hitting at a far better clip than the Yankees, putting up a .310 BA/.377 OBP/.506 SLG/.883 OPS line over the last seven days, with a 153 wRC+, and a 16.4 wRAA. The Blue Jays have won four series in a row (although take that with a grain of salt, as three of the four series wins came against the Cubs, Pirates, and Rangers), and have gone 8-2 over the last 10 contests.
Toronto’s pitching staff has been okay, but not great over the last two weeks, performing to a 3.89 ERA and a 3.42 FIP (3.52 xFIP). The bullpen has been stronger than the starting rotation, so Yandy Díaz, Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena, Manuel Margot, Harold Ramírez, and company will need to apply offensive pressure early and often.
The Rays are 6-4 against the Blue Jays this season. This is yet another important series for Tampa Bay for myriad reasons, tiebreaker and division placement notwithstanding. It would be nice for the Rays to go 4-1 against the Jays, however, at the bare minimum they need to walk away with a series win.
Who may be pitching and when is fluid at the moment. Kevin Cash hasn’t named a starter for the series opener, but given that Cooper Criswell (1-0, 3.95 ERA) will get the start on Monday. Cash also hasn’t named a starter for the first game of the day/night doubleheader Tuesday, although there is reason to believe Josh Fleming (2-4, 6.84 ERA) will be activated as the 29th man. Otherwise, Jeffrey Springs (7-4, 2.54 ERA), Drew Rasmussen (10-4, 2.57 ERA), and Shane McClanahan (11-5, 2.20 ERA) will throw in the final three games of the series. John Schneider will counter with Jose Berrios (10-5, 5.23 ERA), Alek Manoah (14-7, 2.42 ERA), a pitcher to be named before the second game of the aforementioned doubleheader, Ross Stripling (7-4, 3.03 ERA), and Kevin Gausman (12-9, 3.31 ERA).
Cooper Criswell was selected by the Rays and added to the roster in Brooks Raley’s absence. Since Ryan Yarbrough covered five innings in long relief on Sunday, Tampa Bay will turn to Criswell to make his team debut in what could end up being a brief stint in the big leagues. Since being claimed off waivers from the Angels in mid-July, then outrighted off the 40-man roster a few days later, Criswell has been pitching 3-to-4 innings in his starts with Triple-A Durham and has been pretty effective, striking out 22 and walking five across 27.1 innings, while performing to a 3.95 ERA and 3.87 FIP, with a 0.95 WHIP, and a 4.4 K/BB.
Criswell boasts plus movement on his sinker and slider, and that he throws from a low arm-slot makes him tough on right-handed hitters; Toronto’s lineup typically has eight right-handed batters.
Jose Berrios gave up three runs (two earned) on eight hits and two walks over six innings on Monday against the Orioles. He struck out two. The right-hander wasn’t dominant, yet he got plenty of run support in an eventual 8-4 win as he put together his third quality start in his last four turns. He seems to have put his struggles from earlier in the year behind him for the most part. Berrios owns a 3.33 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 4.20 K/BB through 24.1 innings over that four-start stretch. He is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in one five-inning start against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (1-3), Ji-Man Choi (4-11, 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Harold Ramírez (3-8, 2B, RBI), José Siri (1-3)
Jeffrey Springs allowed one hit and one walk over three innings against the Red Sox. He struck out two. Springs surrendered his lone hit in the form of a leadoff double from Enrique Hernandez. The 29-year-old has allowed one run or fewer in five of his last seven starts. The left-hander started 19 games in 2022 after starting two games combined in his previous four seasons; his 2.54 ERA this season is a career-best. He also owns a 3.11 FIP, a 1.10 WHIP, and a 4.41 K/BB across 109.2 innings on the season. Springs is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one 4.2-inning start against Toronto this season.
Yonny Chirinos, who has been added to the roster from the taxi squad as the 29th man, began the season on the Injured List while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he made his season debut Wednesday against Boston and struck out four across three scoreless relief innings. He scattered four unlucky hits (a .444 BABIP speaks to that) and walked one on 53 pitches (35 strikes, 66% strike rate). With Chirinos stretched out to the mid-fifties in pitches, it could be assumed that he’ll be on a pitch count the next time he takes the mound. Overall, Chirinos maintains a 0.00 ERA and a 1.45 FIP, with a 1.67 WHIP, and a 4.00 K/BB.
Alek Manoah tossed eight innings and allowed one run on three hits and one walk while striking out five batters against Baltimore. Manoah gave up a run in the first inning but allowed just one baserunner over the next seven scoreless innings. The right-hander completed eight frames on an efficient 95 pitches to collect his fourth straight quality start. Manoah has built upon a strong rookie season with an even better sophomore campaign, as he ranks seventh among qualified MLB starters with a 2.42 ERA. Overall, he maintains a 3.30 FIP (3.88 xFIP), with a 0.99 WHIP, and a 3.85 K/BB across 171.0 frames. Manoah is 0-1 with a 1.50 ERA in one six-inning start against Tampa Bay this season.Key Matchups: Wander Franco (2-8), Brandon Lowe (3-10, RBI, 2 BB)TBA
Drew Rasmussen got the start Friday and was dominant, blanking the Yankees and scattering six singles while walking none on 94 pitches (68 strikes, 72% strike rate). He struck out a career-high 10 batters. The right-hander coaxed 22 whiffs (23% SwStr%) in his outing and leaned heavily on his cutter 49% of the time. In turn, Rasmussen managed a 32.6% SwStr% on that pitch alone against an aggressive, free-swinging team from New York. He was the AL Pitcher of the Month in August and has a 1.38 ERA over his last seven starts. Overall, Rasmussen owns a 2.57 ERA and a 3.07 FIP (3.35 xFIP), with a 4.19 K/BB, and a 1.07 WHIP across 122.2 innings. He is 0-1 with a 1.65 ERA in three starts against Toronto this season.
Ross Stripling allowed two runs on three hits over six innings on Friday against the Rangers. He struck out four without walking a batter. The right-hander was sharp aside from serving up Josh Jung’s first career home run. Stripling exited the contest after an efficient 68 pitches (48 strikes, 71% strike rate) in line for his eighth win before the bullpen coughed up the lead in the eighth inning. He’s rattled off five consecutive quality starts since rejoining the rotation in mid-August, posting a 2.67 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 7.75 K/BB through 30.1 innings over that stretch. He is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in one 4.2-inning start against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (2-5, 5 BB), Brandon Lowe (4-9, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB), Manuel Margot (8-21, 2 2B, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Francisco Mejía (2-5, 2B, RBI, BB), Isaac Paredes (1-2), David Peralta (10-24, 5 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB), Harold Ramírez (2-8, HR, 2 RBI)
Shane McClanahan, in the outing before he hit the Injured List, continued to bounce back from a pair of bad starts by not allowing a run on four hits and one walk over six innings with nine strikeouts against the Angels. The southpaw returned to form, firing his first scoreless start in 12 turns dating back to June 9 and the most strikeouts in a game since July 2. He was in command all night, throwing 62 of 90 pitches for strikes (69% strike rate) and allowing just five runners. All told, McClanahan owns a 2.20 ERA and a 2.65 FIP, with a 6.07 K/BB, and a 0.86 WHIP across 147.1 innings. He is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in one start against the Blue Jays this season.
Kevin Gausman allowed five runs on eight hits and one walk over 5.1 innings against the Rangers. He struck out nine. Gausman surrendered a three-run homer to Adolis Garcia with one out in the first and a two-run blast to catcher Sam Huff with one out in the sixth. The right-hander has been inconsistent in his last nine games, allowing two runs or fewer in five starts and four runs or more in four starts. The 31-year-old is turning in a fascinating season with an outstanding career-best 2.28 FIP while also allowing an extremely high .371 BABIP. He is 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Yandy Díaz (1-1), Manuel Margot (1-3, RBI, BB), David Peralta (6-23, 2B, 3 RBI), Harold Ramírez (1-4, 2B), Taylor Walls (2-6)
— The Rays have placed Brandon Lowe (low back discomfort) on the 10-day Injured List, retroactive to September 12, and recalled C René Pinto from Triple-A Durham.
— Since Brooks Raley is the only unvaccinated player on the Rays’ active roster, Tampa Bay made multiple roster moves on Monday. Right-handers Luis Patiño and Calvin Faucher have been optioned to Durham, while soutpaw Brooks Raley was placed on the restricted list. RHP Cooper Criswell has been added to the roster in lieu of Raley, and right-handers Javy Guerra and Kevin Herget have been selected from Durham. Tampa Bay also needed to create a 40-man spot, so left-hander Brendan McKay was moved to the 60-day Injured List. Additionally, Yu Chang, who was recently designated for assignment by the Rays, was claimed by the Red Sox.