Wander Franco enters the series against the Twins having reached base in 32 consecutive games. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After splitting a series with the Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays welcome the Minnesota Twins into the Trop for a three-game series starting Friday. The Twins were swept by the Cubs in a brief two-game series.

At 84-50 on the season, the Rays enter play 34-games above .500 and 6.5 games up on the Yankees in the division with 28 games left to play.

Things looked good for Tampa Bay in the first two games against Boston, as they plated 14 of their total 16 runs. Yet, the Red Sox held the Rays to just two runs across the final 18 frames of the set — both of which came on a two-run homer by Wander Franco — and limited the AL East-leading ball-club to just .184 wRISP overall. It was a far cry from their performance across the life of their nine-game win streak.

After winning four of their last six games, the Twins dropped both contests against the Cubs, scoring just one run along the way. The last time these two faced off, back in August, Minnesota was in the midst of a hot stretch, having won back-to-back series wins over the Astros and the White Sox. Yet, they haven’t had the same success since, dropping nine of their last 15.

Even though the Rays offense has started to come back down to Earth, they are still performing above league average, boasting a 108 wRC+ and a 2.9 wRAA over the last 14 days. Good, not great. However, those numbers are vastly better than those of the Twins, who’ve posted a 79 wRC+ and a -10.0 wRAA over the same stretch. Minnesota’s pitching has also been abysmal over the last two weeks, combining for a 5.88 ERA and a 5.22 FIP.

If they have figured out a way to, well…figure out the Twins, Tampa Bay has a great opportunity to stitch together some wins this weekend and get off the schneid.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Michael Wacha (2-4, 5.70 ERA), Chris Archer (0-1, 4.35 ERA), and Luis Patiño (4-3, 4.24 ERA). Rocco Baldelli will counter with Randy Dobnak (1-6, 7.83 ERA), Andrew Albers (1-0, 0.96 ERA), and Griffin Jax (3-3, 6.71 ERA).

Michael Wacha got the start Saturday against Baltimore, yielding one run (after he left the ballgame) on three hits and two walks over 4.1 innings. He struck out six on 83 pitches (50 strikes, 60% Str%, 14% SwStr%). Wacha turned in the most effective outing of his five August turns, holding the Orioles off the board for four innings before allowing a Pedro Severino double in the fifth that eventually came around to score against Adam Conley.

The right-hander all but trashed his cutter, which has proved to be ineffective, throwing just one in the contest. Instead, Wacha leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball which sat in the mid-’90s throughout his outing and topped out at 97 mph. Still, the right-hander — who hasn’t pitched more than five innings since July 7 — was clearly on a short leash, and was pulled at the first sign of trouble. Wacha is 2-4 in 23 appearances (18 starts) this season, logging a 5.70 ERA and a 4.77 FIP, with a 1.49 WHIP, and a 3.50 K/BB across 94.2 innings.

Randy Dobnak (finger) was reinstated from the 60-day Injured List on Wednesday. Dobnak had been sidelined since mid-June due to a right middle finger strain. The right-hander recently made two rehab appearances at Triple-A St. Paul and posted a 1.17 ERA and 1.17 WHIP across 7.2 innings. Overall, Dobnak maintains a 7.83 ERA and a 6.18 FIP, with a 2.08 K/BB and a 1.65 WHIP through 43.2 innings on the season. He relies primarily on a 92 mph sinker with heavy sinking action and slight arm-side run, and an 84 mph slider with 12-6 movement, while also mixing in an 85 mph changeup with obvious arm-side fade.

Chris Archer allowed two earned runs on four hits and a walk while striking out six over four innings on Sunday against Baltimore. The right-hander was effective overall across 59 pitches (41 strikes, 69% strike rate), notching first-pitch strikes on 10 of the 17 batters he faced. The right-hander also recorded an impressive 14 swinging strikes (24% SwStr%). Archer displayed improved velocity as the game progressed, going from 88 mph on the first fastball he threw to 95.2 mph on a fourth-inning offering to Jahmai Jones. On the season, Archer maintains a 4.35 ERA and a 2.19 FIP, with a 5.33 K/BB and a 1.45 WHIP through 10.1 innings on the season.

Andrew Albers allowed three hits and a walk over 5.1 shutout innings Friday against the Brewers while striking out two. Making his first big-league start since 2017, Albers cruised through Milwaukee’s lineup without much resistance. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning but didn’t see much of a threat at any other point. He sports a 0.96 ERA, but a 4.23 FIP and a .154 BABIP — speaking to an incredible amount of good luck Albers was the recipient of — with a 3.0 K/BB through 9.1 innings since he was recalled from Triple-A St. Paul. Albers relies primarily on an 89 mph sinker, an 89 mph four-seam fastball, and a 78 mph slider, while also mixing in a 79mph circle changeup and a 69 mph curveball.

Luis Patiño allowed one run on five hits and a walk over 5.2 innings on Monday against Boston. He struck out five. Patiño came up one out shy of his third quality start of the season, tossing 102 pitches (67 strikes, 66% strike rate) before exiting. The workload was encouraging, and Kevin Cash seems confident he won’t need to be treated with kid gloves down the stretch. In seven outings since the All-Star Break, Patiño maintains a 3.89 ERA and a 4.66 FIP, with a 1.30 WHIP, and 2.00 K/BB across 37 innings.

Griffin Jax allowed six runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five across five innings on Sunday against the Brewers. Jax had a clean opening frame but was chased after he allowed six runs over the next three innings on a solo homer, a double, a walk, a three-run blast, and one last double. The 26-year-old has given up 15 runs in his last two turns, which has inflated his ERA to 6.71 to go along with a 1.40 WHIP, and 2.0 K/BB over 53.2 innings. Jax relies primarily on a 93 mph four-seam fastball and an 83 mph slider that sweeps across the zone, while also mixing in an 85 mph changeup with slight arm-side fade and some natural sink, and an 80 mph 12-6 curveball.

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