After winning nine out of 10 games at home, including a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays hit the road for one final road trip out west. First stop Arlington, where the Rays will take on the Texas Rangers in a three-game series. The Rangers are coming off their own four-game sweep, of the Orioles.
The Rays, led by Austin Meadows, tagged the Blue Jays for 24 runs, while the pitching staff limited Toronto just 10 (or 2-1/2 runs per game on average). Meadows, Tommy Pham, and Joey Wendle have been red hot over the last week, scoring 19 times while driving in 11.
In his last 27 plate appearances, Meadows has slugged six extra-base hits including four home runs. Pham has reached base 10 times in his last 25 plate appearances while swiping three bases. And it would appear that Daniel Robertson, who was recalled at the start of the month, may finally be finding his stroke. D-Rob has driven in four runs on four hits (including a double and a triple) in his last 12 plate appearances.
The Rangers have hit 11 homers in the last seven days, led by Rougned Odor, who bashed three long balls over that stretch. Yet, while Texas has won seven of the last 10 games, six of those wins came against the Mariners and Orioles.
In all fairness, they can score runs in bunches, although there is a reason the Rangers enter play one game under .500 with a -39 run differential overall: the pitching staff is not good. Texas’ starters have gone 4-4 over the last 14 days, posting a 4.11 ERA and a 4.73 FIP along the way. Credit where it’s due, Texas is much better at home — where it has gone 40-29 — than on the road. Still, the Rangers have a -13 run differential in Arlington.
Tampa Bay holds a 1-1/2 game lead over Oakland for the top Wildcard spot, and enter play two games in front of Cleveland for the final AL playoff spot.
FanGraphs gives Tampa Bay an 83.7% chance of a postseason berth, while Baseball Prospectus gives them an even more favorable 91.4% chance of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
With the Athletics facing Houston over the next three days (following a 15-0 beatdown by the Astros in the first game of a four-game series) the Rays have an excellent opportunity to pad the win column and create some separation between them an Oakland with a series win. The key is to win games strategically, and the time is right for Tampa Bay to do just that before the team heads to California.
The Rays took two of three from the Rangers the first time the two met this season.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will throw Ryan Yarbrough (11-3, 3.49 ERA), Jalen Beeks (6-3, 4.32 ERA) as a bulk guy, and Brendan McKay (2-3, 5.03 ERA). Chris Woodward will counter with Lance Lynn (14-10, 3.81 ERA), Ariel Jurado (7-10, 5.40 ERA), and Kolby Allard (4-0, 3.78 ERA).
Ryan Yarbrough got the start on Monday and battled over six innings, allowing four runs on nine hits while fanning four against Baltimore. Yarbrough cruised through the first five frames, but the Orioles dinged him up for four runs in the sixth inning on a homer, three singles, and a double. Still, the 27-year-old has put together a solid 2019 campaign, posting a 3.49 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP, with a 7.29 K/BB across 121-1/3 innings.
Lance Lynn allowed three runs on five hits and three walks over five innings against the Yankees, on Wednesday. He struck out seven. Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres both took Lynn deep, the first time since July 21 that the right-hander has given up multiple homers. He will take a 3.81 ERA and a 3.94 K/BB across 181-2/3 innings into his start vs. Tampa Bay, against whom he is 0-1 with a 3.49 ERA in four career starts. This season, Lynn limited the Rays to three hits and one walk across eight innings in his start at the Trop. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-3, 2B), Matt Duffy (2-6, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-6, 2B, BB), Eric Sogard (2-4, 3B, 2 RBI, 3BB), Joey Wendle (2-6)
Jalen Beeks allowed four hits over three scoreless innings against Cleveland two Saturdays ago. He struck out one and walked none. Beeks worked as the primary pitcher but entered the game with a runner on first base in the second inning. He ended up with his shortest outing since June 21 even though he did not allow a run. Beeks has a 4.41 ERA on the season, with a 1.48 WHIP and a 2.16 K/BB across 98 innings on the season. With the plethora of bullpen options available right now, the southpaw will likely be on a very short leash.
Ariel Jurado allowed five runs on seven hits over four innings during against the Yankees on Tuesday. He struck out three. Edinson Volquez worked as the opener and allowed two runs. Jurado fired four scoreless frames before he fell apart in the sixth inning when he allowed five hits — including two homers — and recording zero put-outs. The 23-year-old has a 5.40 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP, and a 2.29 K/BB over 116-2/3 innings on the season. Jurado relies primarily on a 92 mph sinker with some natural sinking action and a 93 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in an 86 mph 12-6 slider, a firm 85 mph changeup with armside fade, and a hard 81 mph 12-6 curveball.
Brendan McKay struck out seven and allowed just one hit across 3-2/3 scoreless frames on 59 pitches (37 strikes, 63% strike rate). The 23-year-old didn’t pitch deeply enough to capture the win, yet he was impressive, fanning seven of the 12 batters he faced, and retiring nine consecutive batters before he exited the ballgame. The outing snaps a cold spell for the left-hander, although he is still 2-3 with a 5.03 ERA.
Kolby Allard gave up one earned run on eight hits across 6-1/3 innings against the Orioles, while striking out two and walking two. Locked in a pitcher’s duel with John Means, Allard got the better of it despite having to work his way around 10 baserunners. The 22-year-old lowered his ERA to 3.78, to go along with a 1.38 WHIP and a 2.64 K/BB across 33-1/3 big-league innings on the season. Allard relies primarily on a four-seam fastball natural sinking action and an 88 mph worm-burner cutter, while also mixing in an 81 mph changeup.