Tonight, the Rays take on the Baltimore Orioles as they begin their critical and final series of the regular season. Unfortunately, the Rays are not in control of their own fate as Oakland leads them by three games and the Orioles lead the Rays by four. Should the Rays somehow manage to sweep the O's while the Rangers sweep the A's, the Rays would, at the very least, clinch a play-in game for the playoffs.
Alex Cobb versus Wei-Yin Chen
I would rather not harp on the Orioles baffling success since the topic has been debated many times already. With the O's clinching the playoffs, I have finally accepted that things are how they will be. The O's may not be a good hitting or pitching team, but they are in the playoffs. Lucky them.
Alex Cobb enters the game with a 3.67 FIP, a 4.14 ERA, and 2.1 WAR in 129.1 innings pitched. The Orioles, over the course of this year, do not have a major platoon split with a 96 wRC+ against right handed pitching and a 97 wRC+ against southpaws. Using Whelk's platoon splits tool, here are what the Orioles' hitters are expected to do against a RHP (Cobb):
Based on recent lineup construction and Cobb's handness, I would expect the Orioles to put out a lineup similar to the one below:
1. McLouth, LF
2. Hardy, SS
3. Davis, RF
4. Jones, CF
5. Wieters, C
6. Thome, DH
7. Renolds, 1B
8. Flaherty, 2B
9. Machado, 3B
If everyone gets the same amount of PA's against Cobb, their projected wOBA is .325.
Cobb primarily uses three pitches: fastball, changeup, and curveball. The Orioles have a .25 wFB/C (above avergae), a -.42 wCH/C (below average), and a -.03 wCU/C (average) this year. Given the O's struggles with the changeup and Cobb's success with the pitch (1.69 wCH/C), it would make sense for Cobb to utilize his changeup often.
Maddon should have all the members of the bullpen available today, so matching up is not a major issue. McGee, Peralta, and Howell are the best options against lefties, while Farnsworth and Davis are the best options against right handed hitters.
Wei-Yin Chen has been a solid starter for the Orioles this year with a 4.43 FIP, 4.11 ERA, and 2.1 WAR in 186 innings pitched. The Rays have faced Chen four times this year, hammering him once, getting shut down once, and doing solidly in the other two meetings.
Chen primarily works with a fastball, changeup, and slider while mixing in the occasional curveball. While his fastball is solid and his changeup is plus, his curve and slider have both posted poor results this year.
The key to defeated Chen is being patient and drawing walks. In starts where he has walked 3 or more batters, Chen has a 5.89 ERA.
The best lineup for the Rays versus Chen, using Whelk's platoon split tool, is:
1. Desmond Jennings, LF (.320 wOBA)
2. B.J. Upton, CF (.342)
3. Ben Zobrist, SS (.367)
4. Evan Longoria, 3B (.393)
5. Jeff Keppinger, 1B (.346)
6. Ben Francisco, DH (.344)
7. Ryan Roberts, 2B (.311)
8. Matt Joyce, RF (.289)
9. Jose Molina, C (.277)
If everyone gets the same amount of plate appearances, the Rays projected wOBA versus Chen is .332. The Rays have made it a habit of under-performing expectations, and we can only hope that that isn't the case tonight.
Rangers v. Oakland
Tonight on the west coast, the Rangers are sending up struggling rookie Martin Perez against the A's formidable Jarrod Parker. The Rangers have more favorable match-ups in the final two games, so if they can manage to secure a win tonight (along with a Rays win), the chances of a magical comeback would be much greater.