The Tampa Bay Rays cap their homestand with a three-game interleague series against the Cardinals, starting Tuesday. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After dropping two of three against the White Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays cap their current homestand with a three-game interleague series against the Cardinals, starting Tuesday. St. Louis took three of five from the Cubs over the weekend.

At 31-23 on the season, the Rays enter play eight games over .500, while the Cardinals enter play at 32-23, nine games over .500.

A terrible start to Sunday’s contest between the Rays and the ChiSox doomed Tampa Bay, who couldn’t quite mount a rally despite having a few opportunities late in the game. After falling behind 6-0 through the first two frames, the Rays got on the board with an Isaac Parades homer in the fifth before plating four the next inning highlighted by Randy Arozarena’s RBI triple and Mike Zunino’s two-run homer. Yet, they could never quite tie the score and get over the hump.

Tampa Bay’s offense has generally been slumping for a bit and is now only averaging 4.13 runs per game on the season on a .671 OPS — both rank bottom 10 marks in baseball. To their credit, though, the offense has improved … if just marginally. Over the last seven days, the Rays slashed .202 BA/.290 OBP/.311 SLG/.601 OPS/.240 BABIP/83 wRC+/-6.4 wRAA over the last seven days which, admittedly, isn’t great. However, compare that to where they were over the previous seven days (heading into the White Sox series) when they slashed .178 BA/.257 OBP/.265 OBP/.522 OPS/.226 BABIP/60 wRC+/-13.2 wRAA. Tampa Bay was able to reduce the overall strikeout rate (24% to 20.7%) and increase the overall walk rate (8.5% to 10.8%). That, paired with improved luck (.240 BABIP vs. .226 BABIP) and power (109 ISO vs. .087 ISO), enabled the offense to put up a far better fight in a series that was absolutely winnable if not for the relief corps which dropped the ball on Saturday, and Ryan Yarbrough who put up a stinker on Sunday.

Yandy Diaz has been an on-base machine of late, posting a .282 BA/.422 OBP/.369 OPS/.704 OBP line with 12 RBI and 22 runs scored. Arozarena has also gotten toasty, piling up six homers, 10 stolen bases, 24 RBI, and 24 runs scored to go along with his .739 OPS.

It wasn’t easy for St. Louis, but the Cardinals managed to take three of five despite a tough battle from the rival Cubs. After Nolan Arenado (39 RBI on the season) got the Cardinals on the board in the fifth inning of Sunday’s finale with a two-run single, they had to resort to some late-game dramatics, with Lars Nootbaar tying the score in the top of the ninth on an RBI single before rookies Juan Yepez and Brendan Donovan gave them the lead in the 11th.

The Cardinals boast an outstanding lineup that ranks fourth in baseball at 4.89 runs per game thanks to a .721 team OPS. Yet, they are closer to league average on the pitching side things with a 3.79 collective ERA and an overall 4.28 FIP, including a 3.75 ERA and 4.17 FIP from the bullpen.

Paul Goldschmidt is making a National League MVP case, slashing .349 BA/.423 OBP/.608 SLG/1.031 OPS with 12 homers and 47 RBI. Arenado has slowed down since his torrid April, however, he is still having a strong campaign overall with a .842 OPS, 10 homers, 39 RBI, and his usual elite-level defense at the hot corner.

Tampa Bay went 2-1 against the Cardinals the last time these two teams faced off in 2017, with a +3 run differential.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Jeffrey Springs (2-2, 1.88 ERA), Corey Kluber (2-2, 3.73 ERA), and Shane McClanahan (6-2, 2.10 ERA). Oliver Marmol will counter with Dakota Hudson (4-2, 2.96 ERA), a pitcher to be named before the middle game of the series, and Miles Mikolas (4-3, 3.02 ERA)

Jeffrey Springs allowed two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out seven against the Rangers on Wednesday. Springs allowed a solo homer to Sam Huff in the second inning and another to Nathaniel Lowe in the fourth, yet Texas didn’t get any additional extra-base hits or score any other runs against him. The southpaw’s season ERA actually rose to 1.88 despite the decent outing, highlighting how well he’s pitched for Tampa Bay this season. Springs also tied his season-high with seven strikeouts in the outing, and he has notched 20 punchouts over his past 16.2 frames. All told, he maintains a 1.88 ERA and 3.37 FIP, with a 0.86 WHIP, and a 5.00 K/BB across 38.1 innings on the season. Over his career, Springs is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA across 3.1 total innings against St. Louis.

Dakota Hudson allowed a run on four hits and a walk with three punchouts across seven innings on Wednesday against the Padres. Hudson had missed the five-inning mark in three of his last four turns, but he bounced back with his longest outing of the year Wednesday. The lone run on his line came from a first-inning Manny Machado RBI single. This was also just the second time in 10 starts that Hudson’s issued less than two walks — the first time was in his season debut. Hudson’s done fairly well despite the shaky command, posting a 2.96 ERA and 4.57 FIP, with a 1.32 WHIP and 1.16 K/BB through 51.2 innings this season. The hurler relies primarily on a 93 mph sinker that has some natural sinking action and an 89 mph cutter that also boasts natural sink, while also mixing in a 92 mph worm-killer four-seam fastball, an 81 mph slider that has short glove-side cut, and a firm 87 mph changeup. Key Matchup: Harold Ramirez (1-3)

Corey Kluber allowed one earned run on four hits and no walks while striking out four across six innings on Thursday against the Rangers. Kluber held the Rangers off the scoreboard until he surrendered a sixth-inning solo shot to Marcus Semien. Though an eight-run outing against the Angels on May 10 bloats his overall line, Kluber has allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts this season. He’s particularly shown excellent control by surrendering only eight walks across 50.2 frames. All told, Kluber maintains a solid 3.73 ERA and 3.57 FIP, with a 1.13 WHIP, and a 5.75 K/BB on the season. He is 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA in two career starts against the Cardinals.


Shane McClanahan got the start Friday against the White Sox, allowing two runs on six hits (including two solo home runs) and struck out eight without issuing a walk across six frames. By his recent standards, this was a little bit of a downturn for McClanahan, who allowed multiple runs for the first time since May 5. Yet, he’s now picked up wins in four consecutive starts and five of his last six turns, and he had all the support he needed Friday after a four-run first inning. McClanahan now maintains a 2.10 ERA and 2.60 FIP, with a 0.92 WHIP and a 7.42 K/BB across 64.1 innings (11 starts) this season.

Miles Mikolas allowed four runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out four across five innings on Friday against the Cubs. Mikolas wasn’t at his best, but the Cardinals’ lively offense propped him up well. He’s allowed 16 runs (15 earned) over his last 23.1 innings (four starts) after starting the season without allowing more than two runs in any of his first seven outings. Overall, he’s at a 3.02 ERA and 3.60 FIP, with a 1.14 WHIP, and a 3.4 K/BB across 65.2 innings. Mikolas relies primarily on an 88 mph slider and a 93 mph sinker that has few remarkable qualities, while also mixing in a 93 mph four-seam fastball that has some natural sinking action, a 76 mph curveball that has exceptional bite, and an 84 mph changeup. The right-hander is 0-1 with a 15.00 ERA in one career start (six innings) against the Rays.


— About the Pride Night snafu … One of the biggest frustrations to me is that while the vast majority of the organization and the players — including Brett Phillips, Tyler Glasnow, and all of the fan favorites — opted to wear the patch and Pride night hat, the five who opted out saw the elevation of their opinions. It begs us to remember, that this month is not about them. To ignore all of the positive efforts and team history over the last 16 years, in lieu of the actions and statements of five players, is unfortunate.

Having discussions as a team was a good and healthy choice, although the choice to opt out allowed things to go off the rails. The Rays were unable to get ahead of this, which is very disappointing, especially after 15 years of successful Pride games. Yet, it should also be remembered that the opinions of five players do not a majoritarian organizational opinion make.

— Luis Patino started his rehab assignment on Monday, throwing an inning in the Florida Complex League, and giving up a run on two hits. Patino is expected to throw two innings on Saturday. Meanwhile, it would appear that Shane Baz is close to returning after he threw 4.1 innings on Sunday for Durham, striking out 10. He is eligible to return from the IL as of Monday, June 6, so his return is nigh.

A question begs, what roster moves will be made in order to add Baz back to the active roster. The answer came in Tuesday, when the Rays optioned LHP Ryan Yarbrough to Triple-A Durham. After an ugly start against Chicago on Sunday, Yarbrough was sent down to the Minors. The southpaw had been on a nice run before the outing at Tropicana Field, posting a 2.55 ERA in his previous five outings despite the team going 0-5 in those games. He, however, lacked command as he was hit hard by the White Sox, surrendering six runs on eight hits and two walks in only 1 2/3 innings.

In the short-term, the Rays recalled Luke Bard, 31, who will add depth to the Rays’ bullpen after a strong start to the season in Durham. The right-hander maintains a 2.81 ERA with 18 strikeouts and three walks in 16 innings over 15 appearances with the Bulls.