After a 3-3 road trip which left the Tampa Bay Rays in second place in the AL East, they will welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers into Tropicana Field for a brief, two-game series, starting Tuesday. The Rays are coming off a series loss against the New York Yankees, while the Dodgers won their three-game set against the Cincinnati Reds.
Tampa Bay dropped the rubber game of their set against New York and now face an extremely rough stretch over the next seven weeks in which they will play 47 games in 48 days. They will face Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Cleveland in the next couple of weeks before the next off-day.
All told, the Rays allowed 11 runs with two outs while the defense had more gaffes than Joe Biden, especially in the series finale. That’s the kind of stuff that cannot happen if they wish to remain toward the top of the AL East rankings.
The Dodgers won for the fifth time in six games when they rolled to an 8-3 victory in the rubber game against the Reds. They enter the series with a comfortable six-game lead over Arizona in the NL West. Los Angeles collected just six hits on the day but took advantage of nine walks along with a pair of wild pitches.
Over the last 14 days, the Rays and Dodgers have, essentially, been the same team in the batter’s box. However, Los Angeles has edged out Tampa Bay with a .433 SLG, a .191 ISO, a 106 wRC+, and a 3.5 wRAA. The Rays have also struck out more and walked less than LA.
Expect a low scoring series, as the Rays pitching staff has performed to a combined 2.95 ERA and 2.99 FIP (starters 2.40 ERA and 1.98 FIP, and relievers 3.38 ERA and 3.76 FIP) over the last 14 days, while the Dodgers have performed to an overall 1.60 ERA and 2.79 FIP (starters 1.55 ERA and 2.52 FIP, and relievers 1.75 ERA and 3.64 FIP) over the same stretch.
The pair split four games in 2016 with a -1 run differential between the two.
Over the next two days Kevin Cash will likely throw Jalen Beeks (3-0, 2.25 ERA) and Yonny Chirinos (5-1, 3.26 ERA), both of whom will follow an opener. Dave Roberts will respond with Clayton Kershaw (3-0, 3.40 ERA), and Rich Hill (1-1, 3.00 ERA).
Jalen Beeks picked up his third win of the season on Wednesday against the Marlins, allowing four hits across three scoreless innings. He struck out four. The left-hander continues to be impressive behind an opener, carrying a 2.25 ERA and 3.33 K/BB through 32 innings. Beeks should be fresh as he will be pitching on five days rest.
Clayton Kershaw gave up three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out five across seven innings. All three runs came by way of the long ball. Still, Kershaw navigated his way to a fourth quality start in five outings and earned his third win in his last four games. Kershaw’s velocity and strikeouts may be down, but he still carries a 3.40 ERA and 0.96 WHIP into his start against Tampa Bay. He relies primarily on a hard 87 mph slider and a whiffy 90 mph four-seam fastball which doesn’t boast much to any movement, while also mixing in a 74 mph 12-6 curveball with good downward bite. Kershaw is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in one career start against the Rays. Key Matchups: Travis d’Arnaud (1-2, BB), Avisail Garcia (2-2, BB)
Yonny Chirinos allowed four hits and struck out two over 4-2/3 shutout innings Friday night. Chirinos did his part after Ryne Stanek tossed the first two frames, as he nearly blanked the Yankees for five innings. The right-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his past six appearances, allowing him to carry a 3.26 ERA with a 4.125 K/BB across 47 frames.
Rich Hill tossed six shutout innings while fanning 10 with no walks and two hits on Friday. The veteran southpaw needed just 84 pitches to record 18 outs, which is a pretty incredible seeing that 10 of those outs were punchouts. Through four starts, he is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA, with a 1.05 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts across 21 innings. Hill relies primarily on a whiffy 91 mph four-seam fastball and a 75 mph curveball with exceptional bite and sweeping glove-side movement. He is 2-0 with a 4.82 ERA in 11 career outings (two starts) against the Rays. Key Matchups: Travis d’Arnaud (1-3), Guillermo Heredia (1-2)