After a successful 5-1 west coast road trip, the Tampa Bay Rays returned home to the friendly confines of Tropicana Field, where they will start a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday. The Rays took two-of-three from the Padres, while the Tigers dropped two-of-three against the Mariners.
Detroit hasn’t had many bright spots this season, although INF/OF Brandon Dixon is in the midst of a decent campaign, hitting a team-leading 14 home runs along with 43 RBI and a .261 batting average. He is 3-for-12 with one run batted in against Tampa Bay this season.
Yet one player does not a team make. The Tigers weak lineup is second to last in all of baseball, scoring an average of 3.67 runs per game. The pitching staff isn’t much better, posting an overall 5.23 ERA and 4.88 FIP (starters 5.26 ERA and 4.68 FIP, relievers 5.14 ERA and 5.14 FIP). The Tigers, who according to Fangraphs could be a historically bad team, own a 19-39 road record.
Detroit’s pitching staff has squandered at least five runs in eight out of their last ten games, while Tampa Bay has plated at least five runs in four out of their last six games overall.
The injury-stricken Rays have managed to score consistently of late, and enter play with a two-game cushion over the Athletics in the American League Wildcard race.
FanGraphs gives the Rays an 81.5% chance of a playoff berth, while Baseball Prospectus gives them a far more favorable 90.3% shot of making the postseason.
The Rays took two of three over the Tigers in Detroit earlier this season.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will throw Charlie Morton (13-4, 2.90 ERA), Ryan Yarbrough (11-3, 3.56 ERA), and a pitcher to be named ahead of the series finale. Ron Gardenhire will counter with Daniel Norris (3-10, 4.94 ERA), a pitcher to be named before Saturday’s contest, and Matthew Boyd (6-9, 4.38 ERA).
Charlie Morton allowed four runs on nine hits over six innings against Seattle on Saturday. He struck out 10. For the fifth time this season, Morton recorded double-digit whiffs, while Saturday marked the sixth time he didn’t walk a batter. Morton did give up a fifth-inning homer to Omar Narvaez, however, the bullpen allowed just one baserunner over the final three frames to preserve the win for Uncle Charlie. The right-hander has a 2.90 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP with 184 strikeouts across 149 innings this season and is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in three career starts against the Tigers.
Daniel Norris allowed four runs on four hits and two walks while striking out four across three short innings against the Royals on Sunday. Norris was hit hard in the first three innings, allowing two solo homers in the first inning and allowing a two-run shot in the third frame. With Norris nearing his innings limit, this could be the way he is used for the balance of the season. The southpaw has a 4.94 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 21 starts this season. Norris is 1-2 with a 4.13 ERA in five career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-3), Travis d’Arnaud (1-2, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Guillermo Heredia (5-8, HR, 3 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (2-5, 2B, RBI), Austin Meadows (1-3, RBI), Erik Sogard (1-2)
Ryan Yarbrough threw 8-2/3 superb shutout innings against Seattle, scattering three hits and walking none. He struck out eight. Yarbrough needed just 99 pitches (73 strikes, 74% strike rate) to deliver 26 outs but was denied his first career complete game and shutout when manager Kevin Cash turned to closer Emilio Pagan to retire the final batter of the game. Pitching as a traditional starter for the first time in four outings, the southpaw flummoxed Seattle’s hitters all afternoon, allowing only a trio of singles and preventing any Mariner from reaching scoring position. The 27-year-old has now allowed one run or fewer in 13 of his 20 appearances this season and has not been charged with a loss since giving up five runs on June 13. He maintains a 3.56 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP, and a 6 K/BB over 98-2/3 innings. Yarbrough is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in a three-inning appearance against the Tigers.
Matthew Boyd allowed seven runs (six earned) over 5-1/3 innings of work on Tuesday against the Mariners. He gave up seven hits and walked two while striking out four. Boyd was victimized four times by Seattle long balls…and the home run ball has been a big problem for Boyd. He was tagged for three homers in his last start, in which he allowed five runs in over 2-2/3 innings. On the season, Boyd has now allowed 30 home runs across 146 innings, and his ERA climbed to 4.38 after the rough start Tuesday. Over his career, Boyd is 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-2, RBI), Guillermo Heredia (3-4, RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-4, RBI, BB)
— Infielders Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe began their rehab assignments in a game Thursday with the Gulf Coast League Charlotte Stone Crabs. They should be back with the big league squad at some point over the next seven days.