After winning two consecutive series against Cleveland and Baltimore and going 5-1 on the current homestand, the Tampa Bay Rays will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into the Trop for a four-game set, starting Thursday. The Blue Jays dropped both games of a two-game series against Atlanta, and seven of their last 10.
In spite of going 3-for-15 wRISP (.200 BA) and plating just nine runs total against the Orioles, Rays hitters have fared much better at the plate of late, slashing an overall .265 BA/.325 OBP/.454 SLG/.779 OPS line over the last 14 days, with a moderately powerful .189 ISO and an improved but not stellar 106 wRC+.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays seem to be going in the opposite direction, slashing a combined .213 BA/.287 OBP/.364 SLG/.651 OPS line, with a significantly below league average 72 wRC+ over the last 14 days.
Toronto’s pitching staff also hasn’t been great over the same stretch, posting an overall 3-9 record with a 4.17 ERA and a 4.64 FIP (starters: 1-5, 4.01 ERA and a 4.51 FIP, relievers: 2-4, 4.78 ERA and a 4.74 FIP).
The Rays should be able to limit the Blue Jays offense and tag the pitching staff with some runs.
After this series, Tampa Bay will embark on a pretty big road trip which will take them out west. Before they face the mighty Dodgers on the 17th and 18th — kicking off a stretch of eight consecutive games against plus .500 teams — the Rays will have an opportunity to pad the win column while also staying relevant in the AL Wildcard race. However, that doesn’t mean they should take this series for granted … after all, Toronto took two-of-three from Tampa Bay the last time the two teams met, at the beginning of August.
The Rays are 8-4 against the Blue Jays this season, and 4-2 at home.
Over the next four days, Kevin Cash will throw Austin Pruitt (2-0, 4.78 ERA), Brendan McKay (2-3, 5.55 ERA), Charlie Morton (14-6, 3.06 ERA), and Ryan Yarbrough (11-3, 3.49 ERA). Charlie Montoyo is expected to counter with Trent Thornton (4-9, 5.34 ERA), Clay Buchholz (1-3, 5.45 ERA), a hurler to be named before Saturday’s contest, and Jacob Waguespack (4-3, 3.97 ERA).
Austin Pruitt got the start against Cleveland on Friday because the Rays had used seven pitchers against Houston the day before. Contrary to his season numbers, “Cy” Pruitt set the tone with the best outing of his big league career. Pruitt surrendered four hits while striking out six across 5-1/3 scoreless frames. The right-hander threw 52 of 77 pitches for strikes (68% strike rate) as well as 14 of 20 first-pitch strikes while coaxing 11 swinging strikes. He lowered his ERA by almost a full point — from 5.57 to 4.78 — and now carries a 1.27 WHIP and a 3.67 K/BB over 37-2/3 on the season. Color me surprised … I’ll take it.
Trent Thornton yielded four runs (three earned) on six hits while striking out six over five innings on Friday against Houston. Thornton gave up all four of his runs in the fifth inning, allowing a three-run blast before getting the hook. Even though he owns a 5.34 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP, with 123 punchouts over 129-2/3 innings this season, the 25-year-old has allowed three or fewer earned runs in four consecutive outings. Be that as it may, Thornton is 0-1 with a whopping 11.12 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (2-6, HR, 2 RBI), Travis d’Arnaud (1-3), Matt Duffy (1-2), Avisail Garcia (4-6, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (3-6, 2B, 3B, RBI, BB), Austin Meadows (6-7, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Tommy Pham (1-4), Eric Sogard (1-2)
Brendan McKay was recalled by the Rays on Tuesday. The highly-touted prospect made his big league debut in late June although he hasn’t really established himself. He owns a 5.55 ERA in 35-2/3 big-league innings thus far, which led to an August demotion. However, the southpaw struck out eight and allowed just a hit and a walk across three scoreless frames in his last appearance with Triple-A Durham. McKay ripped through opposing hitters over 53 pitches, 39 of which were strikes (74% strike rate). He allowed three runs on six hits (including two home runs) and a walk across five innings in his last start against the Blue Jays.
Clay Buchholz allowed two runs on three hits and five walks with three strikeouts across 5-2/3 innings against the Astros on Saturday. It’s been a tough season for Buchholz, as he missed three months with a shoulder injury, yet he finally tallied the first win of his 2019 campaign. Buchholz also pitched well in his previous start, yielding just three hits. The right-hander owns a 3.08 ERA in two outings since his return from the shoulder ailment but is 1-3 with a 5.45 ERA, and a 1.35 WHIP, with 18 strikeouts in 36-1/3 innings this season. He is 9-8 with a 2.62 ERA in his career against the Rays, and 6-3 with a 1.87 ERA in 12 starts at the Trop. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-2), Ji-Man Choi (1-4), Austin Meadows (2-5, RBI), Tommy Pham (1-3), Eric Sogard (1-3, RBI, BB)
Charlie Morton gave up one earned run on four hits and three walks with eight strikeouts across 5-1/3 innings against Cleveland on Sunday. Morton guided the Rays to a huge series sweep against Cleveland after he got blasted by the Astros in his previous outing. Morton yielded an RBI double in the second inning and found himself in a bit of a jam, although he was able to escape and finish the rest of his outing cleanly. He needed 108 pitches to get through just 5-1/3 innings, which isn’t the height of efficiency, yet the bullpen got the job done over the balance of the game. Morton now sports a 3.06 ERA and a 4.18 K/BB ratio over 170-1/3 innings. The right-hander is 0-1 with a 2.31 ERA in two starts against Toronto this season.
Ryan Yarbrough got the start on Monday and battled over six innings, allowing four runs on nine hits while fanning four against Baltimore. Yarbrough cruised through the first five frames, but the Orioles dinged him up for four runs in the sixth inning on a homer, three singles, and a double. Still, the 27-year-old has put together a solid 2019 campaign, posting a 3.49 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP, with a 7.29 K/BB across 121-1/3 innings.
Jacob Waguespack allowed four runs (two earned) on one hit with five walks and four strikeouts across four innings against Atlanta on Monday. While he gave up just one hit, it was a home run, while the walks just killed him. One of his five walks scored on the long ball, and two more Braves who reached with walks crossed the plate because of an error. Waguespack threw seven shutout innings two starts ago, but since he’s yielded five earned runs (nine total) in seven innings. He owns a 3.97 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, and 46 strikeouts across 59 innings this season. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three outings (two starts) against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Jesus Aguilar (1-3), Ji-Man Choi (2-7, RBI, BB), Travis d’Arnaud (2-5, 2B, 2 RBI), Avisail Garcia (1-3), Nate Lowe (1-3), Tommy Pham (2-7, 2B, RBI, BB), Eric Sogard (1-2)
— Enter Tommy Pham, the smoothie king:
— After all the chatter about whether or not Orioles pitchers were trying to hit Pham, one of their hurlers did hit a Ray, Eric Sogard, late in Tuesday’s game. Fortunately, the utility player is okay.