After splitting an Interleague series against Atlanta, the Tampa Bay Rays make their way to Charm City, where they will start a three-game set against the Orioles on Friday. Baltimore most recently dropped a pair to the Yankees.
Tampa Bay enters play having plated 38 runs through seven games (first place in the American League in runs scored), however, they rank 12th in the AL with a .219 team batting average. The Rays are also outside the top-10 in slugging percentage with a tepid .388. “How did they score all those runs?” you might be asking. They get on base at a fairly healthy .322 OBP clip, and with the exception of the Opening Series, the Rays have done a good job with runners in scoring position, hitting .298 — including .320 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Juxtapose that with Baltimore, which enters the set scoring exactly five runs per game across five contests. That isn’t going to cut it in the AL East. However, both teams share something: with just seven homers apiece, both are in the bottom five in the AL as it relates to home runs. In all fairness, the Orioles have had an uneven schedule given the number of COVID-19 postponments they’ve faced…it isn’t easy to get consistent at-bats when you’re not playing games.
The Rays are coming off two offensively strapped contests which led to two consecutive losses. As the old adage goes, “You need to take advantage of the bad teams,” and Baltimore is one of the weakest teams Tampa Bay will play this season. A series win would be the cake, while a sweep would be the icing.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will lean on Blake Snell (0-0, 0.00 ERA), Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 2.25 ERA), and Yonny Chirinos (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Brandon Hyde will counter with former Ray Alex Cobb (1-0, 1.69 ERA), Wade LeBlanc (1-0, 6.35 ERA), and a pitcher to be named ahead of the series finale.
Blake Snell allowed three hits and two walks while striking out five across two scoreless innings on Sunday. The lefty punched out the first two batters he faced, using a heavy dose of fastballs, yet he also struggled with location — throwing only four of 11 first-pitch strikes. Snell’s first start of the season was scheduled to be short, but he did not work efficiently which shortened that outing even further; he retired just six batters. If he can improve his command on Friday, expect a longer leash for the southpaw hurler. Snell is 2-2 with a 4.67 ERA in five starts against the Orioles, and 0-1 with a 10.57 ERA in two career starts at Camden Yards.
Alex Cobb — the former Ray that has oft been injured the last few seasons — allowed just one run on four hits and no walks while striking out six across 5-1/3 innings against Boston. Cobb cruised through the first five innings with a three-hit shutout, but he was pulled at 78 pitches with one out in the sixth inning after surrendering a solo homer to Mitch Moreland. It was his first victory since 2018 after making just three starts last season. Cobb is 0-3 with a 4.63 ERA in four career starts against his former team. Key Matchups: Michael Perez (1-4, 2B), Joey Wendle (4-11), Mike Zunino (5-10, 2B, HR)
Tyler Glasnow was absolutely dominant over the front four innings, allowing just one hit — a solo homer to Dansby Swanson — and two walks while striking out nine. Leaning heavily on his big fastball — which he got up to 100.1 mph in the first inning — his 12-6 curveball which induced some awkward swings and misses, and a handful of mid-90’s changeups (!!!), Glasnow retired the last seven batters in a row — punching out five of them — including the side in the fourth inning. Glasnow threw 72 pitches, 45 for strikes, and coaxed 15 swings and misses (63% strike rate, 33% whiff rate).
Swanson opened the scoring in the second inning by hitting a home run to centerfield on a 98.8 mph 3-2 fastball — the fastest Glasnow pitch that’s ever been hit for a home run.
Wade LeBlanc allowed four runs on four hits and no walks while striking out four over 5-2/3 innings on Sunday against the Red Sox. LeBlanc wasn’t particularly dominant in his start, but an early-game offensive onslaught by the Orioles put him in line for the win in his season debut. Last season, the southpaw logged a 5.71 ERA and 1.45 WHIP across 121-1/3 innings in 26 appearances (eight starts). LeBlanc relies primarily on a whiffy 78 mph changeup with some natural sink to it, an 83 mph cutter boasting strong cutting action, and an 87 mph sinker, while also mixing in a whiffy 71 mph curveball with sweeping glove-side movement. He is 0-2 with a 5.17 ERA in three career outings (15-2/3 innings) against Tampa Bay.
Yonny Chirinos missed two weeks of Summer Camp due to COVID-19, and because of it, questions surrounded the right-hander as he took the mound … questions regarding his pitch count, command and control of his stuff, and stamina. And though he threw just one first-pitch strike to the first nine batters (7-of-17 overall), Chirinos was able to maintain his composure and turn in a fairly effective outing, allowing one unearned run on four hits and two walks while striking out four on 68 pitches (41 strikes, 60% strike rate).
It doesn’t hurt that he was helped by double plays in each of the first two scoreless frames, including a strike ’em out, throw ’em out twin killing in the first.
Yet, Chirinos ran into trouble in the third inning when Ender Inciarte reached on Ji-Man Choi’s error, then went to third on Alex Jackson’s double to left, his first big-league hit. Ronald Acuña Jr. earned a base loading free pass before Chirinos was able to strike out both Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman. Still, Marcell Ozuna drove in the game’s first run on a base hit to left, although Matt Adams popped out to cap the rally at just one run. Chirinos threw 31 pitches in the frame but finished his outing with a clean eight-pitch fourth.