Austin Meadows came up big in the series finale against the Yankees, going 2-for-5 with a homer and five RBI. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After splitting their four-game series against the Yankees in New York, the Tampa Bay Rays will start a three-game set against the Rangers in Arlington on Friday. The Rangers dropped three games to the Mariners, and have lost nine games in a row.

It’s deja vu all over again. The last time the Rays faced the Rangers, back in April, they were coming off a series against the Yankees. Yet in that series, the Rays dropped three of four and looked, frankly, abysmal. Unlike that last series though, Tampa Bay is a team close to playing to its potential. As I wrote back then, “the Rays are still averaging 4.56 runs per game, ranking them at 12th in baseball. Yet, therein lies a problem — they also own a 5.18 team ERA. That, however, is juxtaposed with a 3.33 team FIP. Meanwhile, the Rangers are scoring an average of 4 runs per game on the season, while the pitching staff enters the series with a 5.53 team ERA and a 5.22 team FIP.”

Fast forward to now, the Rays have averaged 6.7 runs per game over their last 20 games. What’s more, the pitching staff owns a 2.72 combined ERA and a 3.80 combined FIP over the last 30 days. Meanwhile, the Rangers have averaged 3.55 runs per game over their last 20 games, while the pitching staff enters the series with a 5.42 combined ERA and a 4.20 combined FIP over the last 30 days. A cursory pause for a moment though, the Rays’ offensive production hasn’t been near as eye-popping the last few games (seen below), and because of it, their slash line over the last 14 days is lagging.

At any rate, because of their success, the Rays jettisoned from a .500 ball club in April to a team with the best record in all of baseball. Meanwhile, Texas’ poor spate of play has resulted in a cellar-dwelling Rangers team.

Despite going 1-3 against the Rangers in 2021, the Rays are 8-6 against the AL Central’s worst team over the last 14 meetings between the two.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash is expected to turn to Josh Fleming (5-3, 2.98 ERA), Rich Hill (4-2, 3.32 ERA), and Tyler Glasnow (4-2, 2.69 ERA). Chris Woodward will counter with Kyler Gibson (3-0, 2.24 ERA), Kolby Allard (1-1, 3.38 ERA), and Dane Dunning (2-4, 4.67 ERA).

Josh Fleming allowed two runs on four hits while fanning five across 4-2/3 innings against the Phillies on Sunday. The left-hander has started in five of his nine appearances this season although he looked impressive in this relief outing. Fleming owns a 2.98 ERA across 45-1/3 innings of work. He is 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA against the Rangers on the season after he allowed one run on four hits including a homer across five innings of work.

Kyle Gibson allowed one run on four hits and two walks across six innings against Houston, in his last start before he hit the Injured List. He struck out four. Aside from an Aledmys Diaz RBI groundout in the second inning, Gibson kept the Astros quiet, allowing him to lower his season ERA to a terrific 2.24 with a 2.53 K/BB across 60-1/3 innings. Gibson limited the Rays to two runs (one earned) on four hits across seven innings in an April start. Even so, he is 5-5 with a 4.71 ERA in 12 career outings (11 starts) against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (1-2), Mike Brosseau (1-1, 2B, 2 RBI), Yandy Díaz (2-5, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (6-17, 3 2B, RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (3-10, 2B, 3B, RBI), Joey Wendle (4-13, 2 2B, 3B, RBI)

Rich Hill allowed three hits and two walks over five scoreless innings. He struck out two. Hill wasn’t in peak form, tossing 37 of 56 pitches for strikes (66% strike rate), yet he still got the job done against a reeling New York offense. He enters the series with a 3.32 ERA and 3.16 K/BB through 59 innings on the season. Hill is 1-0 with a 4.09 ERA in four career outings (two starts) against the Rangers.

Kolby Allard allowed two runs on two hits and one walk with four strikeouts against the Mariners on Thursday. Making a spot start for the injured Kyle Gibson, Allard made two mistakes in allowing back-to-back solo homers but he pitched well otherwise. He had only seen relief work prior to Thursday and his four innings of work were his most of any appearance this season. Allard’s current 3.38 ERA would be the best of his four-year career if it holds. He is 0-0 with a 7.20 ERA across five combined innings against the Rays. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (1-1), Austin Meadows (1-3, 2B, 2 RBI), Joey Wendle (1-2, RBI), Mike Zunino (1-3)

Tyler Glasnow allowed three earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out eight across seven innings on Tuesday against the Yankees. Glasnow battled wildness (and a bloody thumb) in the third inning, as he walked two and threw a wild pitch to force in two runs. However, he otherwise turned in another strong turn, coaxing 15 swinging strikes on 100 total pitches (15% SwStr). Through 12 starts on the season, Glasnow has completed seven or more innings on five occasions while striking out eight or more in nine outings. Overall, he boasts a 2.69 ERA with 106 strikeouts across 77 frames. The right-hander held the Rangers scoreless across 7-2/3 innings in his last start against them.

Dane Dunning allowed two runs on six hits and no walks while striking out three across 4-2/3 innings against Colorado on Tuesday. The brief outing could be considered a bounce-back effort for Dunning after he surrendered seven runs over four frames in his previous turn. He threw 78 pitches (59 strikes, 76% strike rate) and departed with a pair of runners on base two outs into the fifth. Dunning hasn’t pitched a full five innings in three of his past four starts, logging a 6.27 ERA and 1.66 WHIP over that stretch. Dunning blanked the Rays across four innings on two hits and a pair of walks in April. Key Matchups: Austin Meadows (1-2, 2B), Brett Phillips (1-1, 2B)

Noteworthiness

— The Rays have placed 1B Ji-Man Choi (left groin strain) on the 10-day Injured List, retroactive to June 3, and recalled LHP Ryan Sherriff from Triple-A Durham.

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