After taking two of three from the Red Sox in Boston, the Tampa Bay Rays will continue their nine-game road trip in Detroit, where they will start a three-game set against the Tigers. Detroit salvaged a game against Pittsburgh earlier this week.
At 88-52 on the season, the Rays enter play 36-games above .500, and nine games up on the Red Sox in the division with 22 games left to play.
The Rays continue to make things look easy. They won another series against Boston, scoring a combined 24 runs across three games. The first-place lead has grown to nine games atop the division and they have won seven out of the last eight road games.
Nelson Cruz — who hit three homers, drove in eight runs, and scored six runs against Bostons — already has three homers and eight RBI against the Tigers this season in his time with the Twins, as Tampa Bay’s DH looks to inflict more damage this weekend. Meanwhile, Wander Franco is in the midst of a historic on-base streak, and the rookie boasts a .916 OPS in his last 38 games. Beyond the on-base streak though, Franco now has struck out just once in his last 59 plate appearances, and three times in his last 100. If you’re counting, that’s three strikeouts in four weeks.
Detroit’s bats struggled to generate offense against the Pirates, although it has posted above-average numbers over the last two weeks. Rookie catcher Eric Haase has 20 homers on the season, and he has driven in four runs in his last five games. He also boasts 54 RBI and a .769 OPS across 80 games. Haase joins Robbie Grossman as the two Tigers with 20 homers on the season, while Jonathan Schoop has 19.
In 2019, the last time these two teams faced one another, the Rays went 4-2 (2-1 in Detroit, and 2-1 at home), and outscored the Tigers 22-16.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Michael Wacha (3-4, 5.54 ERA), who will be piggy-backed by Chris Archer (1-1, 5.28 ERA), Luis Patiño (4-3, 4.65 ERA), and a pitcher to be named before Sunday’s contest. A.J. Hinch will counter with Matthew Boyd (3-8, 3.89 ERA), Casey Mize (7-7, 3.51 ERA), and Tarik Skubal (8-12, 4.30 ERA).
Michael Wacha allowed two runs on three hits, including two solo home runs, across six innings on Friday against Minnesota. He struck out seven and threw 86 efficient pitches (64 strikes, 74% strike rate). Aside from the pair of homers, Wacha cruised through the Twins’ lineup, while the Rays managed to push five runs across in the first three frames. He also didn’t hurt himself by allowing any free passes.
Wacha has been a much different pitcher since his previous start against the Twins. Last night he completely scrapped his cutter and leaned heavily on changeups and curveballs to complement his mid-90’s four-seam fastball.
Wacha has allowed just three runs through 10.1 innings (2.61 ERA) in his last two appearances after registering a 6.93 ERA in his previous 11. On the season, Wacha carries a 5.54 ERA and a 4.79 FIP, with an 8.76 K/9, and a 1.43 WHIP across 100.2 innings.
Matthew Boyd allowed five earned runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out six across four innings against the Reds on Saturday. Boyd gave up all five of his runs in the third inning when he allowed five hits, capped off by an Aristides Aquino’s three-run homer. Boyd has hurled four-inning losses in both of his turns since returning from the 60-day Injured List with a triceps injury. He maintains a 3.89 ERA and a 4.09 FIP, with a 1.27 WHIP, and a 2.91 K/BB with 67 strikeouts across 78.2 innings on the season. Boyd relies primarily on a 92 mph four-seam fastball, an 80 mph changeup that dives down out of the zone, and an 80 mph slider that has exceptional depth, while also mixing in a 73 mph curveball that has exceptional bite and sweeping glove-side movement, and a 91 mph worm-killer sinker. Over his career, Boyd is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Yandy Díaz (2-7, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-4, RBI, BB), Jordan Luplow (4-16, 2 HR, 4 RBI)
Chris Archer allowed four runs on four hits and four walks with three strikeouts through five innings on Saturday. This wasn’t Archer’s finest outing, but with the Rays clobbering six home runs on the afternoon, the right-hander recorded his first win since 2019. Even with the victory, there are still some concerns with the two-time All-Star. All of the runs allowed came on a pair of two-out, two-run homers that followed a walk. Speaking of free passes, he walked a season-high four batters and found the zone just 59% of the time.
On a positive note, his five innings are the deepest he’s gone in a game this season, while his average fastball velocity ticked up. The right-hander hit 94 – 95 mph on multiple occasions. On the season, Archer maintains a 5.28 ERA and a 4.60 FIP, with a 1.50 WHIP and a 2.50 K/BB across 15.1 innings. Archer is 2-3 with a 3.76 ERA in 10 career outings against the Tigers.
Casey Mize tossed three scoreless innings, fanning two. Mize hadn’t tossed such a short outing since July 2, when he also hurled three innings against the White Sox — although in that contest he surrendered two earned runs on four hits and a walk while fanning two. Mize has allowed two runs or fewer in three of his last four appearances. Even though he has struggled to pitch deep into ball games, he’s limited the damage. He owns a 3.95 ERA across six appearances (27.1 innings) since the start of August. On the whole, Mize maintains a 3.51 ERA and a 4.88 FIP, with a 2.72 K/BB, and a 1.13 WHIP through 138.1 innings on the season. He relies primarily on an 86 mph slider with two-plane movement, a whiffy 94 mph four-seam fastball with natural sinking action, and a 93 mph sinker with slight arm-side run, while also mixing in an 86 mph splitter that dives down out of the zone, and an 81 mph curveball that has sharp downward bite. Key Matchup: Nelson Cruz (1-2, BB)
Luis Patiño allowed four runs on six hits and three walks across 2.2 innings on Sunday against Minnesota. He struck out four. Most of the damage against Patiño came in the second inning when he allowed three runs on four hits and a walk. It was his shortest start since April and just his second time giving up more than three runs in his last seven turns. He now owns a 4.65 ERA and a 4.62 FIP, with a 2.48 K/BB, and a 1.35 WHIP through 60 innings on the season.
Tarik Skubal allowed two runs on four hits over three innings on Monday against Pittsburgh. He struck out four. Skubal served up a two-run homer to Kevin Newman in the first inning before recording an out, however, he settled in after that, retiring the final eight batters he faced while 36-of-50 pitches for strikes (72% strike rate). The 24-year-old left-hander has given up two runs or fewer in five of his last six outings, lowering his season ERA to 4.30. Overall, Skubal maintains a 4.30 ERA and a 4.99 FIP, with a 3.42 K/BB, and a 1.29 WHIP through 136.0 innings on the season. He relies primarily on a whiffy 95 mph four-seam fastball that has some natural sinking action and a hard 87 mph slider, while also mixing in a 95 mph sinker, an 82 mph changeup that has surprising cutting action, and a 74 mph curveball that boasts exceptional bite.
— The Rays placed LHP Shane McClanahan (lower back tightness) and Matt Wisler (right middle finger inflammation) on the 10-day Injured List, retroactive to September 9. The left-hander said his back tightened up before his September 8 start in Boston. He was able to pitch through it, throwing five innings of shutout ball, but with the postseason push looming large, the club decided to rest him for one start to fully recharge.
Wisler was placed back on the 10-day Injured List after throwing just five pitches against Boston on Wednesday
The hope is that it’s another 10-day shutdown of no throwing, and we can get some of the inflammation out of there, but we don’t know anything beyond that. That’s an optimistic outlook.— Kevin Cash
— Because of the injuries, LHP Dietrich Enns and RHP Louis Head were recalled from Triple-A Durham. The right-hander was optioned for the 10th time this season on September 8, one day after pitching two scoreless frames against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Head has put together a 2.93 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP across 21 outings for the Rays. Enns has made five appearances in three stints with Tampa Bay this season, posting a 4.50 ERA across 12 innings.
— After being sidelined all season, RHP Nick Anderson rejoined the team prior to its series opener in Detroit. The right-hander planned to work off the mound while in Detroit, yet his return was a welcome surprise.
The clubhouse was pretty excited to see him. I certainly was. He seemed like he was in very good spirits. His arm felt good his last outing. … We’ll see how the next couple of days play out with him.— Kevin Cash
He may not be throwing upper 90’s heat, but a healthy Anderson capable of throwing in the mid-’90s is still a huge boost for the Rays ‘pen.