The Tampa Bay Rays returned home from a successful — albeit rain-soaked and attenuated — 10-game road trip where they will start a three-game Interleague series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rays are coming off a shortened two-game split against the Orioles, while the Diamondbacks fell short of a sweep against the Rockies.
Tampa Bay and Arizona’s offenses are on different trajectories at the moment, with the Diamondbacks outpacing the Rays by 21 percent, as it relates to wRC+, over the last 14 days. Christian Walker and company are in the midst of a power surge, performing to a combined .223 ISO with 17 home runs over that stretch. Nine of those 17 homers were hit by Eduardo Escobar and Ketel Martel, who also have paired for a 447 wRC+ over, you guessed it, the last 14 days.
In spite of the offensive malaise Tampa Bay currently finds itself in, the Rays pitching staff has sustained the team. Blake Snell, who has lost his last two turns will need to return to form when he takes the mound in the series opener. One can’t help but wonder if Snell’s fractured toe may be hampering him more than he is willing to admit.
I saw stuff that I need to clean up that I’d like to keep to myself. Through this week I felt very confident, very comfortable with how I’ve been throwing the ball.
I felt really good against (the Royals in Wednesday’s loss, in which he allowed a career-high seven runs). Just happy with how I feel, happy with what I corrected.
And happy to attack Arizona next. I’m really looking forward to it. I feel good, so I’m excited to get back out there.— Blake Snell
The Rays went 2-1 the last time faced the Diamondbacks in 2016, in Phoenix. Tampa Bay is 4-2 in Interleague play this season.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will throw Blake Snell (2-3, 4.31 ERA), Jalen Beeks (1-0, 2.45 ERA) — who will pitch in the bulk inning role — and Charlie Morton (3-0, 2.52 ERA). Torey Lovullo will respond with Merrill Kelly (3-2, 3.60 ERA), Taylor Clarke (3-1, 6.12 ERA at AAA), and Robbie Ray (2-1, 3.79 ERA).
Blake Snell allowed seven runs on six hits over three innings in the second game of a doubleheader against the Royals on Wednesday. The southpaw struck out two and walked three. Snell faced the Royals for the second consecutive time and once again failed to complete four innings. He has given up 10 runs (nine earned) across 6-1/3 innings against the Royals, who tagged him with an unlucky 8.03 FIP and .429 BABIP. Bright side: he will bounce back. Overall, Snell has a 4.31 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 4.56 K/BB for the season.
Merrill Kelly allowed one run on five hits across 5-1/3 innings on Wednesday. He struck out two and walked two. Kelly blanked the Yankees through five innings but gave up a solo homer and a double in the sixth inning, leading to his exit. The former Rays farmhand has pitched well through six starts with a 3.60 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and a 2.07 K/BB across 35 innings. Kelly relies primarily on a 92 mph four-seam fastball with little arm side movement, while also mixing in an 80 mph curveball with sharp downward movement, a 91 mph sinker with little arm side movement, a firm 86 mph changeup with backspin, and an 89 mph cutter with strong cutting action.
Jalen Beeks fired off 6-2/3 scoreless frames on Wednesday, allowing a hit, two walks, and a hit batsman. He fanned six. Beeks turned in a highly impressive performance after the opener, Ryne Stanek, gave up three earned runs over his sole inning of work. Beeks has excelled in the “bulk guy” role in two consecutive appearances, also blanking the Royals across 4-2/3 innings on April 23, racking up seven strikeouts along the way. The southpaw has put up good numbers, sporting an outstanding 2.45 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and a 2.6 K/BB across 25-2/3 innings of work.
Taylor Clarke will make his first career big-league start Tuesday. This season, Clarke tossed three scoreless innings to in relief. He has a mediocre 4.40 career ERA in 38 starts for Triple-A Reno and an ugly 7.65 ERA over four starts for the Aces … although that figure is heavily skewed by a bad outing against El Paso. The right-hander doesn’t have a true put-away pitch and needs to keep batters off balance in order to be successful. Clarke relies primarily on a whiffy 94 mph four-seam fastball and a firm 87 mph changeup, while also mixing in a 78 mph 12-6 curveball with sharp downward bite, an 86 mph slider, and a whiffy 94 mph sinker.
Charlie Morton allowed one earned run on five hits and a walk while striking out nine over 6-2/3 innings on Thursday. Morton allowed four extra-base hits yet kept the Royals hitless with runners in scoring position. The right-hander generated an impressive 20 called strikes and 18 whiffs. Morton will carry a strong 2.52 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 48 strikeouts across 39-1/3 innings into the series finale on Wednesday.
Robbie Ray gave up five runs (one earned) on six hits over 5-2/3 innings on Friday, striking out seven and walking three. Five runs crossed the plate against the left-hander, but only one was earned thanks to three errors by his defense. Ray has made one career start against the Rays — a five-run, eight-hit, three-walk start lasting all of 4-1/3 innings. He relies primarily on a 93 mph four-seam fastball with natural movement and an 84 mph worm-killer slider, while also mixing in an 81 mph 12-6 curveball and a whiffy 93 mph sinker. Key Matchup: Tommy Pham (4-8, 2 BB)