After a 4-2 homestand, including a pair of series wins, the Tampa Bay Rays departed the friendly confines of Tropicana Field for Charm City, where they’ll start a three-game set against the Orioles on Friday. The Orioles dropped three of four to the Yankees.
At 23-15 on the season, the Rays enter the series a season-high-matching eight games over .500. Meanwhile, the Orioles enter play nine games under .500.
The first game of the series against the Tigers looked like more of the same for Tampa Bay, at least of late. They tied the game at two apiece, yet Andrew Kittredge surrendered a two-out solo shot, sinking their chances for a win. Be that as it may, the offense woke up in games two and three, plating 14 total runs while relinquishing just two. All told, they averaged 5.33 runs per game against Detroit and allowed just five.
The Orioles looked to be on the verge of getting swept if not for Anthony Santander’s three-run walk-off blast. All told, Baltimore is 3-7 over the last 10 games, yet they are playing much better at home, notching a 9-10 record and owning a +5 run differential.
Tampa Bay has vastly improved its offense over the last week, in spite of the losses of Brandon Lowe and Manuel Margot. Over the last seven days, the Rays have slashed .253 BA/.296 OBP/.416 SLG/.712 OPS with a .287 BABIP, a .163 ISO, and a 114 wRC+. And while those aren’t offensive juggernaut-like numbers, when you compare them to where they were offensively speaking entering the series versus Detroit, they are playing exceedingly better than they had been. They haven’t even hit their stride.
The Rays have a fantastic opportunity to continue improving at the plate against a team that they’ve gone 21-1 against over the last two seasons.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Ryan Yarbrough (0-0, 4.91 ERA) — who will pitch behind Jalen Beeks (1-0, 1.72 ERA) — Jeffrey Springs (1-1, 1.66 ERA), and Corey Kluber (1-2, 4.29 ERA). Brandon Hyde will counter with Tyler Wells (1-3, 4.18 ERA), Kyle Bradish (1-2, 5.06 ERA), and Spenser Watkins (0-1, 5.10 ERA).
Ryan Yarbrough got the start on Saturday and allowed two hits, three free passes, and hit one of the 18 batters he faced, although he was charged with just the one run across 3.2 innings. He threw an inefficient 80 pitches (46 strikes, 58% strike rate) and struck out two. Deep counts and foul balls did Yarbrough in, yet all the damage he incurred came in the 26-pitch first inning. His .314 BABIP against also suggests there could be some bad luck at play. Because of the uneven outings since returning from the IL, Yarbrough will pitch behind Jalen Beeks, who likely will get two innings on the bump. To his credit, the southpaw was able to lower his ERA and FIP to 4.91 and 5.30 (respectively), while he’s performed to a 1.73 WHIP and a 1.14 K/BB across 11 innings. Yarbrough is 5-2 with a 4.02 ERA in 13 career outings (69.1 innings) against Baltimore.
Tyler Wells allowed three runs on eight hits and no walks while striking out two across four innings on Sunday against the Tigers. Wells had lasted at least five innings in each of his last three starts, and he posted a 2.25 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in 16 innings during that time, yet he was unable to replicate his success Sunday. The 27-year-old has exhibited plenty of command recently and has now put together five straight starts without issuing a walk. All told, Wells maintains a 4.18 ERA and 4.13 FIP, with a 1.25 WHIP, and a 4.75 K/BB across 28.0 innings. He is 0-1 with a 21.60 ERA in one start (1.2 innings) against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Wander Franco (1-1), Harold Ramirez (1-2), Mike Zunino (1-2, HR, 3 RBI)
Jeffrey Springs allowed four hits over 4.2 shutout innings on Sunday against Toronto. He struck out two. The closest Springs came to allowing a run was in the third inning when he faced a two-out, first-and-third threat before forcing Vladimir Guerrero to fly out. Springs lowered his season ERA to 1.66 and his FIP to 2.26, with an impressive 6.67 K/BB, and a 0.78 WHIP through 21.2 innings on the season. He is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA across 10 career outings against the Orioles.
Kyle Bradish tossed 4.1 innings on Monday, giving up four runs on eight hits and three walks while punching out six versus the Yankees. Bradish got himself into a jam in the third inning, surrendering a run on a Giancarlo Stanton double, however, the big blow against him came in the next frame when Jose Trevino launched a three-run homer. The eight hits given up were his highest total of the season while the four runs matched a season-high. On the other hand, the right-hander has 17 strikeouts over his last two outings after having only five in his prior two turns. In four starts this year, Bradish has a 5.06 ERA and a 4.45 FIP, a 1.36 WHIP, and a 3.67 K/BB with 22 strikeouts across 21.1 innings. He relies primarily on a 95 mph cutter and an 86 mph slider that sweeps across the zone, while also mixing in a hard 82 mph curveball with 12-6 movement and a 90 mph changeup.
Corey Kluber got the start and allowed two runs on four hits while striking out eight over six innings on 90 pitches (61 strikes, 68% strike rate). Kluber gave up both earned runs in the top of the fourth on a two-run blast by Jonathan Schoop, but he was otherwise solid on a day the Rays’ offense struggled. It was a positive sign to see the right-hander bounce back following a horrendous outing his last time out, and he’s now surrendered two runs or fewer in three of his last four starts. The right-hander now maintains a reduced 4.29 ERA, with a 1.21 WHIP, and a 5.83 K/BB across 35.2 innings. Kluber allowed no runs on three hits and four walks across 4.2 innings against Baltimore in April.
Spenser Watkins allowed two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out one across four innings on Tuesday against the Yankees. Aaron Judge ripped an RBI double off Watkins in the first and then added a solo shot in the top of the third, accounting for all the damage against Watkins in the outing. The homer was the fifth that he has allowed this season, while the one punchout matched a season-low. Watkins has struggled to pitch deep into contests in 2022, reaching five innings in only two of his seven starts. On the season, he has produced an underwhelming 5.10 ERA and 6.13 FIP, with a 1.60 WHIP, and a 0.93 K/BB over 30 frames. The right-hander relies primarily on a 92 mph four-seam fastball and an 83 mph slider that sweeps across the zone, while also mixing in a 78 mph 12-6 curveball, an 87 mph worm-killer changeup, and an 88 mph cutter that has extreme cut action. Over his career, Watkins is 1-3 with a 6.43 ERA across four starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (4-7, 2B, 2 RBI, BB), Ji-Man Choi (2-4, 2 RBI, BB), Wander Franco (3-9, 2B, RBI, Francisco Mejia (2-3, 2B), Brett Phillips (1-4, 2B, RBI)