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Game Notes: Jake Odorizzi makes his return

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Odorizzi vs Keuchel

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since leaving his June 5 start with oblique tightness, Jake Odorizzi will be taking the mound for the Tampa Bay Rays. His return to the rotation will be welcomed with open arms as the Rays are in desperate need of any source of rejuvenation to their lackluster performance.

Although they put an end to their four game losing streak with a win in last night's series opener, the Rays have lost 15 out of their last 19 games. If they manage to win today's game, they will extend their winning streak to two or more game for only the first time since June 20.

The first place Houston Astros will send All Star Dallas Keuchel to the mound.

First pitch is at 4:05.

Today's Lineups

HOUSTON ASTROS TAMPA BAY RAYS
Jose Altuve - 2B Brandon Guyer - CF
Preston Tucker - RF John Jaso - DH
Carlos Correa - SS Evan Longoria - 3B
Colby Rasmus - CF Logan Forsythe - 2B
Evan Gattis - DH Joey Butler - RF
Luis Valbuena - 3B James Loney - 1B
Hank Conger - C Asdrubal Cabrera - SS
Jonathan Singleton - 1B Jake Elmore - LF
Alex Presley - LF Rene Rivera - C
Dallas Keuchel - LHP Jake Odorizzi - RHP

The Book on Dallas Keuchel

Dallas Keuchel was selected by the Houston Astros as the 221st overall pick in the 2009 Amateur Player Draft. Over the course of four seasons in the Astros' farm system, he was not featured on a single Baseball America organizational top prospect list. The consensus among scouts was that he would not, in any capacity, be serviceable to a major league team.

Fortunately for Keuchel's big league dreams, he was pitching for an organization that was undergoing one of the most radical rebuilding projects in recent memory. With a front office that was perfectly content with the major league team piling up losses, Keuchel was promoted to the Show in 2012.

In 16 starts in his rookie season, the left-hander posted a 5.27 ERA and 5.74 FIP. As a testament to the competitiveness of the Astros during this time period, his abysmal pitching line was good enough for an encore in 2013. Although Keuchel only posted a slightly better ERA (5.15) in 31 games (22 of which were starts), his peripherals suggested substantial improvements. His lowered FIP of 4.25 was achieved primarily by surrendering fewer home runs, walking one less batter per nine innings, and striking out an additional three batters per nine innings.

In his breakout season of 2014, Keuchel demonstrated additional advancements of his command, as his BB/9 dropped to 2.16. And although he surrendered only one home run per 18 innings, his most impressive improvement was his significant increase in ground ball production. Of all the balls put in play during his 200 innings of work, 63.5% of them were hit on the ground.

Keuchel, as you know, has continued his stellar performance and after posting a 2.14 ERA in 130.1 innings this season, Keuchel was nominated to this season's Midsummer Classic in Cincinnati.

Pitching for a first place team that is nine game over .500, one can only think that Keuchel's ascent from minor league mediocrity to major league stardom would never had been possible had it not been for the team's need of inning eaters during their rebuilding phase.

Here is a look at his arsenal in 2015:

PITCH VELOCITY FREQUENCY
Fourseam 90 mph

5% vs LHB

***

7% vs RHB

Sinker 90 mph

59% vs LHB

***

52% vs RHB

Change 79 mph

1.5% vs LHB

***

17% vs RHB

Slider 80 mph

31% vs LHB

***

13% vs RHB

Cutter 87 mph

3% vs LHB

***

10% vs RHB