After a tumultuous four-game series against the Yankees in the Brox, the Tampa Bay Rays will host the Chicago White Sox for a three-game series, starting Friday night. The Rays are in the throes of a three-game skid, while the White Sox have lost seven in a row.
The Rays started their previous eight-game road trip on a high note, winning four out of five games. Yet they dropped three in a row to New York, due in large part to their inability to keep the ball in the park. Over the last seven days, Tampa Bay’s hurlers relinquished 13 home runs, including 10 in the Bronx. They have got to do better against Chicago.
They’ll welcome in a slumping team that is scoring an average of 4.23 runs per game (27th in the big leagues), while Chicago’s pitching staff holds a weak 5.18 ERA (also 27th in the Majors). The White Sox are 17-32 on the road and were swept at home by Tampa Bay earlier in the season.
Tampa Bay starts the series eight games back of the Yankees in the AL East and currently out of the playoff field, and tied with Oakland for the last Wildcard start. The team must start playing better baseball if they are going to get back in the race in earnest, and that all starts now.
As Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) wrote, Tampa Bay has won more than 70 percent of its games against sub-.500 teams. Over the next five weeks, the Rays play all but two series (both against Boston) against the teams that are below the break-even mark. While that doesn’t guarantee anything, especially tonight after playing a doubleheader yesterday and getting home at about 5 a.m, the White Sox have dropped seven straight and nine of 10. Be that as it may, they were able to beat up on the Orioles (a team they should have beaten) last week, and they will look to do the same against another scuffling ballclub.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will throw Brendan McKay (1-0, 1.69 ERA), likely Ryan Yarbrough (8-3, 4.26 ERA), and Blake Snell (5-7, 4.55 ERA). Rick Renteria will counter with Reynaldo López (4-8, 5.97 ERA), Lucas Giolito (11-4, 3.23 ERA), and Dylan Cease (1-1, 5.73).
Brendan McKay allowed three hits while striking out seven across five scoreless innings in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. McKay once again looked poised and in total control, throwing 61 of 86 pitches for strikes (71% strike rate), with 20 swinging strikes (23% SwStr). According to ESPN, the left-hander had a 122 Game Score, which makes this the 17th-best single-game performance in the American League this season by that metric.
Reynaldo López allowed one unearned run on three hits and two walks across six innings on Sunday against the A’s. He struck out seven. Lopez was dominant during his outing, allowing just two runners to reach second base in this quality start. Lopez narrowly missed out on a win, yet it was a great bounce-back performance nevertheless after he surrendered seven runs in his last outing. López was hammered by the Rays earlier in the season, allowing eight runs on 10 hits (including three homers) across 4-1/3 innings of work. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-3), Ji-Man Choi (1-2, 2B, BB), Yandy Diaz (1-2, BB), Avisail Garcia (2-3, 2 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (3-5, BB), Brandon Lowe (1-2, 2B, BB), Austin Meadows (2-3, HR, RBI), Tommy Pham (2-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI)
Ryan Yarbrough was excellent on Sunday, allowing one run on two hits while striking out six over 6-1/3 innings. Yarbrough carried a combined perfect game into the ninth inning before he surrendered a run in the bottom of the frame on a single to right field. The 27-year-old southpaw has thrown the ball well of late, relinquishing just three runs over his last five appearances (21-1/3 innings) while fanning 19. Yarbrough is 0-0 with an 8.44 ERA in one career outing (5-1/3 innings) against the White Sox.
Lucas Giolito gave up three runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out five across six innings on Monday. Giolito coaxed 10 swinging strikes in the hard-luck loss quality start. Giolito had dominated Kansas City in his career, posting a 6-0 record with a 2.13 ERA coming into this contest. Even with the loss, it was a bounce-back outing for Giolito after he allowed six runs in his previous start against the Cubs. Giolito has an 11-4 record with a 3.23 ERA, a 10.6 K/9 and a 3.3 BB/9 (3.21 K/BB) through 18 starts this season. He is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two career starts against Tampa Bay (14 innings). Key Matchup: Travis d’Arnaud (1-3, HR, RBI)
Blake Snell allowed one run on three hits and two walks over five innings. He struck out four. Snell threw an inefficient 93 pitches (56 strikes, 60% strike rate) and did not have a clean inning in his first three frames, yet his only real mistake resulted in an Edwin Encarnacion solo shot in the fourth inning. Snell exited the contest in line for his sixth win of the season. The southpaw lowered his ERA by 15 points to 4.55 and has managed a 3.82 K/BB across 95 innings on the season. Snell is 3-0 with a 1.07 ERA in five career starts against Chicago (25-1/3 innings).
Dylan Cease allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits and one walk with seven strikeouts on Tuesday. Kansas City scored two unearned runs in the first inning, yet that’s all they would need to hand Cease the loss. He displayed better control in this outing than in his first big league start, however, working more in the zone resulted in eight hits allowed. In two Major League starts, Cease owns a 5.73 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, and a 10.64 K/9 in 11 innings of work. He relies primarily on a 97 mph four-seam fastball with heavy sinking action and a whiffy 85 mph slider with lots of depth, while also mixing in an 80 mph 12-6 curveball, and an 83 mph changeup with a lot of backspin and surprising cut action.
— Matt Duffy (hamstring, back) played the ninth (and presumably final) game of his rehab assignment for Triple-A Durham on Thursday, going 4-for-5. He is on schedule to make his season debut during this series. Duffy, who played shortstop on Wednesday and was back at third Thursday, went 10-for-32 over the life of the rehab assignment.
— The severity of the bruise to Brandon Lowe’s right leg from fouling off a ball on July 2 could keep him sidelined through the homestand that ends Wednesday.
— In order to make room for Brendan McKay on the 25-man roster, the Rays optioned RHP Hunter Wood.