After taking two out of three from the Detroit Tigers, including a pair of walk-off wins, the Tampa Bay Rays play welcome to the Mariners — a team they swept in Seattle a week ago — who will visit the Trop for the first and only time this season. The Mariners took two out of three from the Blue Jays this weekend past.
True, Tampa Bay hasn’t lit up the scoreboard of late, however, they have won seven of 10, while averaging 4.2 runs per game along the way. The luck dragons have nipped at the Rays heels, limiting the ballclub to a .268 BABIP over the last 14 days — 39 points under their season mark of .307. Their luck has changed before, and their luck should change again.
Tampa Bay’s pitching staff has performed well over that stretch, allowing 3.4 runs per game on average while limiting the opposition to four runs or fewer eight times over that stretch. Not bad for a pitching staff that has been hit hard by injuries.
In contrast, the Mariners have won just five of their last 10 games, although they have outscored the Rays over that span by two runs (44). Seattle’s bullpen, one of its biggest weak spots, has been awful the last 14 days, maintaining a combined 4.90 ERA and 5.10 FIP.
The Mariners are a beatable team, and the Rays have fared well against sub .500 teams this season, and especially of late going 9-4. Regardless of the offensive lag, Tampa Bay needs to win at least five of the next seven games before the team faces competitive opponents at the end of the month. That all starts now.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will throw Brendan McKay (2-2, 5.08 ERA), a pitcher to be named before Tuesday’s contest, and Charlie Morton (13-5, 2.77 ERA). Scott Servais is expected to counter with Marco Gonzales (12-10, 4.26 ERA), Tommy Milone (2-7, 4.69 ERA), and Wade LeBlanc (6-7, 5.40 ERA).
Brendan McKay gave up four runs on five hits and six walks while striking out seven across four innings against the Padres. McKay entered the game having issued just three walks over 29-2/3 innings but doubled that amount in his four frames against San Diego. He wasn’t efficient, throwing only 45 of 83 pitches for strikes (54% strike rate) although he made batters miss when he did get the ball over the plate, collecting seven strikeouts among the 12 total outs he recorded. The left-hander now sports an unsightly 5.08 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and a 4.44 K/BB over 33-2/3 innings.
Marco Gonzales allowed three runs on 11 hits and a walk while striking out six over six innings against the Tigers on Wednesday. The first three innings looked ugly, as Gonzales allowed eight hits and three runs. Yet the 27-year-old pitched to contact and worked his way out of trouble to turn in a quality start. Gonzales has pitched at least six innings in 16 starts this season, although he has a 4.26 ERA with 116 strikeouts. The left-hander was good against the Rays on August 9, allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out nine in 6-1/3 innings of work. Key Matchups: Jesus Aguilar (3-8, HR, 3 RBI), Michael Brosseau (1-3, RBI), Matt Duffy (3-8, 2B, RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-3), Austin Meadows (1-3), Tommy Pham (1-2, BB)
Tommy Milone allowed two runs on six hits, with no walks and three strikeouts across four innings against the Tigers on Thursday. Matt Wisler opened the game, while no Seattle pitcher threw more than an inning other than Milone. Milone enters play with a 4.69 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and 71 strikeouts across 78-2/3 innings (16 appearances), which includes five starts this season. The Rays beat up on Milone on August 10, tagging the southpaw for five runs on six hits (including three home runs) across four innings. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-2, 2B), Jesus Aguilar (1-2), Michael Brosseau (1-2), Kevin Kiermaier (3-4, HR, RBI), Mike Zunino (5-10, 3 HR, 6 RBI, BB)
Charlie Morton gave up an unearned run on three hits over seven innings while striking out 10 against the Tigers on Friday. Matt Duffy’s fourth-inning error led to the only blemish on Morton’s line and stuck him with his second loss in three August starts. Still, the right-hander has been outstanding since the beginning of July, fanning double-digit batters in five of his nine turns with a 3.38 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP, and an 8.22 K/BB over 56 innings. Morton allowed four runs on nine hits against the Mariners on August 10, while striking out nine over six innings.
Wade LeBlanc allowed seven runs on 11 hits and a walk while striking out three over seven innings against the Blue Jays on Friday. LeBlanc entered the contest in the second inning with a two-run lead, but he was rocked for three runs in the second, three in the third and another in the seventh en route to a 7-3 loss. He’s now been saddled with four consecutive losses and sits with an unimpressive 5.40 ERA and 1.39 WHIP with 76 strikeouts over 105 innings this season. Nevertheless, LeBlanc was very good against Tampa Bay on August 11, allowing one run on five hits (including a homer) over six innings of work. Key Matchups: Jesus Aguilar (2-3), Micahel Brosseau (1-3), Travis d’Arnaud (1-3), Tommy Pham (2-6, HR, RBI), Eric Sogard (3-5, HR, RBI)
— The Rays enter play a game behind Cleveland for the first AL Wildcard spot, and 1-1/2 games ahead of the Athletics for the second Wildcard spot.
Per FanGraphs, they improved their chances of a postseason berth to 74.3%. Baseball Prospectus views Tampa Bay similarly, giving the Rays a 78.2% chance of a playoff berth.
— Both Joey Wendle (wrist) and Brandon Lowe (shin) were back at the Trop after their rehabilitation assignments in Port Charlotte. The infielders are said to be feeling much better, and will fly to Durham Monday afternoon to join the Durham Bulls beginning Tuesday. If all goes as planned, they can rejoin the big league squad by the end of the week.