After a 3-2 homestand, the Tampa Bay Rays will head on the road to battle the Seattle Mariners for a three-game series at T-Mobile Park, starting Friday night. The Rays are coming off a series loss against the Blue Jays, while the Mariners split a two-game series against the Padres.
Tampa Bay is in the midst of a favorable schedule that gives the team an opportunity to maintain its Wildcard position. Their next five series’ are against teams with losing records which include sets against the Tigers and Orioles. Tampa Bay holds a slim half-game lead ahead of Oakland for the second Wildcard spot. Still, if the previous series against Toronto proved anything, it’s that a sub .500 record doesn’t mean the opponent won’t rollover.
Seattle’s offense is slumping of late and the team is dealing with numerous injuries and absences, which have not helped matters. Mitch Haniger is out until late August, while Ryan Healy is out for the remainder of the season. Dee Gordon should return next week, after this series, and former Ray Tim Beckham was issued a season-ending suspension for PED usage.
Tampa Bay’s pitching staff boasts a 3.57 team ERA, good for second in the big leagues, and the Rays stand at 35-22 on the road this season. Seattle’s pitching staff maintains a 5.21 team ERA, good for 28th overall, and the Mariners stand at 27-33 at T-Mobile Park.
Fair warning, Rays’ and Mariners’ series are typically close — Seattle went 6-1 against Tampa Bay last season, although the run differential between the two teams was just three runs.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will lean on Jalen Beeks (5-1, 3.77 ERA), Charlie Morton (12-4, 2.77 ERA), and Ryan Yarbrough (10-3, 3.90 ERA). Scott Servais will counter with Marco Gonzales (12-9, 4.32 ERA), Tommy Milone (1-6, 4.33 ERA), and Wade LeBlanc (6-5, 5.38 ERA)
Jalen Beeks allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and one walk across four innings on Saturday against the Marlins. He struck out two. Beeks also hit three batters, including a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch during the second inning to give Miami an early lead. The southpaw clearly struggled with his command Saturday, delivering only 35 of his 59 pitches for strikes (59% strike rate). Beeks maintains a 3.77 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and a 2.18 K/BB over 76-1/3 innings.
Marco Gonzales gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings while striking out two against Houston. The southpaw got touched up for three runs in the first inning and while Gonzales was able to right the ship, his fate was sealed as four Astros’ hurlers combined for a no-hitter. He’ll carry a 4.32 ERA and a 2.89 K/BB across 139-2/3 innings into his start on Friday. Gonzales relies primarily on an 81 mph changeup with slight arm-side fade, an 89 mph sinker with a little run and sinking action, and an 85 mph cutter, while also mixing in a 76 mph curveball with sharp downward bite and slight glove-side movement, and an 89 mph four-seam fastball. Gonzales has been very good against Tampa Bay, posting a 2-0 record and a 1.93 ERA in two career starts. Key Matchup: Jesus Aguilar (3-5, HR, 2 RBI)
Charlie Morton allowed two runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out nine over seven innings against the Blue Jays on Monday. Morton delivered another quality performance, although he was tagged with the hard-luck loss. It was an encouraging start because the right-hander has a 4.85 ERA and a 4.33 K/BB in his last four starts. He maintains a 2.77 ERA with 174 strikeouts on the season.
Tommy Milone allowed two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out seven over five innings against the Astros on Sunday. Working as the primary pitcher behind Sam Tuivailala, Milone gathered 14 swinging strikes but was out-dueled by Justin Verlander and was ultimately staked to the loss. Milone struck out the first five Astros he faced and retired the first six batters overall. The southpaw has a 4.33 ERA and 68 strikeouts through 70-2/3 innings this season. Milone relies primarily on an 87 mph four-seam fastball and an 80 mph changeup that boasts natural sinking action, while also mixing in a 78 mph slider with two-plane movement. Milone is 2-3 with a 6.07 ERA in six career outings (five starts) against the Rays. Key Matchups: Avisail Garcia (7-18, 2 2B, RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-2), Mike Zunino (4-8, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB)
Ryan Yarbrough allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits and one walk over 4-2/3 innings against the Blue Jays on Sunday. He struck out five and did not factor in the decision. Two unearned runs crossed the plate during the fourth inning — a throwing error allowed both runs to score with two outs. The 27-year-old worked into the seventh inning as the bulk reliever, but he was pulled with two outs after giving up a double and a walk — both of which were stranded. Yarbrough has a 3.90 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and a 5.38 K/BB across 90 innings.
Wade LeBlanc allowed five runs on five hits and one walk across five innings while striking out five in his last appearance. LeBlanc entered the game in the second inning and retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced before he unraveled in the fifth inning when he allowed a walk and four hits — including a two-run homer off the bat of Fernando Tatis Jr. — to account for all five runs scored against him. Because of the loss, LeBlanc’s record fell to 6-5 on the season to go along with a poor 5.38 ERA, and a 1.40 WHIP across 92 frames. He relies primarily on an 84 mph cutter, a 79 mph changeup that features some natural sinking action, and an 86 mph sinker, while also mixing in a 73 mph curveball with sweeping glove-side movement. Over his career, LeBlanc is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA across one start (5-1/3 innings) against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Travis d’Arnaud (1-1), Avisail Garcia (1-2, BB), Tommy Pham (2-4, HR, RBI), Erik Sogard (2-3)
— It’s not clear when José Alvarado will be activated from the Injured List for Tampa Bay. Alvarado finished the second of back-to-back outings for Triple-A Durham on Wednesday by getting one out on one pitch in a combined no-hitter. In his most recent rehab stint, the left-hander hasn’t given up any hits across 1-1/3 innings, however, he only has one punch out and a pair of walks.