After winning their second consecutive series — this time versus the Yankees — the Tampa Bay Rays return to the Trop where they’ll start a four-game wrap-around series against the Royals, on Thursday. Kansas City dropped three straight against the Twins.
At 62-54 on the season, the Rays enter play eight games over .500 and tied with Toronto for the second AL Wildcard spot.
Tampa Bay found itself with a tall task in the Bronx, yet the Rays handily defeated the Yankees thanks to great pitching and some timely hits. The Rays’ pitching staff has been stingy of late, allowing three runs or fewer in 11 of their last 17 games. In the second half of the season, they own a combined 3.49 ERA and 3.05 FIP. The pitching staff has kept the offense in games and/or completely shut down the opposition; they did that (for the most part) against Baltimore, and they did it in the Bronx. Kansas City, on the other hand, cannot claim the same, as the Royals’ pitching staff owns a combined 4.28 ERA and a 4.49 FIP since the All-Star Break.
Even though the overall offensive numbers don’t look splashy, the Rays have received huge contributions over the last week from Randy Arozarena (237 wRC+), Francisco Mejía (188 wRC+), Taylor Walls (166 wRC+), and David Peralta 137 wRC+. That’s not to belittle the contributions of Harold Ramírez who returned from the Injured List to pick up a couple of hits including a home run against New York. And while the Rays’ offense has performed 20% worse than the Royals over the last week, as it pertains to wRC+, the lag in production can be attributed to bad luck, given that the team posted a .246 BABIP — some 48 points under their 2022 average.
The Rays dropped two of three to the Royals previously, with a -1 run differential.
Over the next four days, Kevin Cash will turn to a hurler to be named before the first game of the series, Shane McClanahan (11-5, 2.28), Drew Rasmussen (7-4, 2.80 ERA), and Ryan Yarbrough (1-7, 4.75 ERA). Mike Matheny will counter with Brad Keller (6-13, 4.93 ERA), Brady Singer (6-4, 3.29 ERA), and Kris Bubic (2-7, 5.11 ERA), and Zack Greinke (4-8, 4.13 ERA).
Brad Keller allowed eight runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out three batters over three innings against the Dodgers. Mookie Betts led off the game by tagging Keller for a homer, and that proved to be an omen for the hurler. The right-hander gave up four more runs in the inning and served up an additional homer in each of the second and third innings before being replaced. By the time he exited the contest, Keller had given up eight runs — the second time in his past three starts that he’s surrendered that many. He’s posted an 8.76 ERA and a 2.07 WHIP across 24.2 innings during that stretch, and because of it, he could find himself in the ‘pen on Thursday instead of the starting rotation. This season, Keller is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in one start (four innings) against the Rays. Key Matchups: Yandy Díaz (5-12, 2B, 7 RBI, 3 BB), Taylor Walls (1-4, BB)
Shane McClanahan got the start Saturday against Baltimore and gave up two earned runs on seven hits and three walks (tying a career high) while striking out four across six innings. He threw 100 pitches (65 strikes, 65% strike rate), and coaxed 20 swinging strikes. All the damage against the left-hander came in the second inning after Ramon Urias hit a leadoff double and Jorge Mateo hit a 60 mph single through the hole which allowed Urias to move up to third two batters later. Rougned Odor followed with an RBI ground ball through the left side, where the shortstop would have been hadn’t the Rays shifted — much to the chagrin of a visibly upset McClanahan. In the at-bat that followed, Robinson Chirinos hit an RBI single which gave the Orioles a temporary one-run lead. From then on, however, McClanahan only allowed two walks and two singles in his last four innings of work, keeping the Rays in the contest. No pitcher this season has recorded more swinging strikes while striking out four batters or fewer in a single game this season.
Brady Singer struck out seven in six scoreless innings while allowing one hit, three walks, and a hit batsman against the Dodgers on Sunday. Singer did not allow a hit until the fifth inning when Chris Taylor singled. Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and Freddie Freeman went a combined 0-for-9 with three strikeouts against the right-hander who did his part to end the Dodgers’ 12-game winning streak. Singer has allowed one earned run or fewer in five of his last six starts and has a 1.64 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 3.67 K/BB across 38.1 innings in that span. He allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits across six innings against the Rays in July. Key Matchups: Roman Quinn (1-2), José Siri (1-2), Taylor Walls (2-5, RBI)
Drew Rasmussen struck out seven and allowed just one run on one hit in 8.1 innings against the Orioles on Sunday. Rasmussen came within three outs of tossing a perfect game, although his efforts were thwarted when Jorge Mateo knocked a double on the first pitch of the ninth inning. It was an efficient outing as he tossed 87 pitches (62 strikes 71% strike rate). Rasmussen was removed with one out in the ninth after his second wild pitch of the frame led to a runner reaching safely after a dropped third strike. Since returning from a hamstring injury at the beginning of July, he maintains a 1.94 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP, and 3.67 K/BB across 41.2 innings (eight starts). Rasmussen limited the Royals to one run on seven scattered hits across five innings in July.
Kris Bubic allowed four runs on 10 hits and three walks over 5.2 innings against Minnesota on Monday. He struck out seven. Minnesota had little trouble getting to Bubic as he failed to record a clean inning all night. The effort breaks a five-start stretch in which he maintained a 2.27 ERA and 1.04 WHIP and notched four quality starts. Overall, he maintains a 5.11 ERA and a 4.61 FIP, with a 1.60 WHIP, and a 1.74 K/BB across 91.2 innings. Bubic allowed two runs on four hits and three walks across seven innings against the Rays in July. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (1-3), Yu Chang (1-4, RBI), Yandy Díaz (2-3, 2B, HR, RBI), Isaac Paredes (2-6, 2 BB)
Ryan Yarbrough blanked the Yankees on Monday, scattering three hits over four innings. He struck out six. After two scoreless frames from Jalen Beeks to open the contest, Yarbrough took the mound in the third and followed up with four shutout innings. Aside from a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning, he didn’t face much danger as he threw 42 of 58 pitches for strikes (72% strike rate). Over his last four outings, Yarbrough has allowed five total runs through 17.1 frames, lowering his season ERA from 5.61 to 4.75. Overall, he owns a 4.50 FIP, with a 1.32 WHIP, and a 3.07 K/BB across 60.2 innings.
Zack Greinke allowed three runs (one earned) on nine hits and struck out five without walking a batter in six innings against the Twins. Greinke has surrendered nine hits in each of his last two outings, yet he’s been effective with damage control. Unfortunately for him, Kansas City’s offense mustered just five hits and a walk without generating a run in a lopsided loss Tuesday. Greinke now owns a 4.13 ERA and a 4.20 FIP, with a 1.35 WHIP, and a 3.1 K/BB through 104.2 innings (20 starts) this season. The soft tosser is 4-6 with a 3.36 ERA in 17 career outings (14 starts) against the Rays. Key Matchups: Christian Bethancourt (2-2, RBI, BB), Ji-Man Choi (1-2, BB), Yandy Díaz (1-3), Harold Ramírez (2-7, 2B)
— Wander Franco began his Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham on August 16 as the designated hitter, batting second. He walked and struck out in his first two plate appearances, only to be replaced by a pinch-hitter due to general soreness. Franco received treatment the following day after feeling general soreness, and he could return to the field on August 18.
— The Rays are hoping Manuel Margot can return to the lineup on August 20, the first day he’s eligible to come off the 60-day Injured List. They will need to clear space on the active roster for Margot, with Roman Quinn being the likeliest to be designated for assignment to make room.