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THE BIGGEST GAME OF THE YEAR!

maybe...or not

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Rays return home after a road trip that featured them being swept and losing five of their first six, with two of the losses being of the walkoff variety. Yet, they only lost a half game in the wild card chase. The reason being, because of the second half of the trip, the Rays strung together three consecutive wins before the bullpen imploded during the final game of the Oakland series on Sunday.

One of the Rays chief competitors for the second wild card spot heads into town for what should be a pivotal three game series, as the Minnesota Twins sit just a game ahead of the Rays in the standings. The Twins have actually been on a nice little run as they have won four straight games to put them within striking distance entering the final month of the season.

Going to the mound for the Rays tonight will be a surprising AL Rookie of the Year contender, Nathan Karns, and he'll be opposed by the pitcher who was supposed to be the ace of the Twins staff this season, Ervin Santana

Tonight's Starting Pitchers:

Nathan Karns vs Ervin Santana

PITCHER W L ERA FIP K% BB% AVG HR IP GS
Nathan Karns 7 5 3.44 4.01 23.4% 8.8% .230 17 136 24
Ervin Santana 2 4 5.53 5.67 13.8% 8.1% .263 11 55.1 9

Karns had a solid outing his last time out, in a start that produced results that we have come to expect from him. He went six innings against the Astros, allowing a run on six hits while he struck out eight and walked a batter. The lone run that scored off him was a solo shot from Carlos Correa in the bottom of the first. He's allowed two runs or less in five of his past six starts, 10 of his past 12, and 18 of his past 24.

Ervin Santana Scouting Report:

Last offseason, the Twins thought they were signing a pitcher who'd stay atop of their rotation for seasons to come as they gave him $55 million for four years. However, just as opening day approached, Ervin Santana was hit with an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a PED. Santana would have to wait until July 5th to make his season debut, where he delivered eight excellent innings against the Royals. However, his season has not been quite as good since then.

After a great first four starts, Santana's season has snowballed. Since July 29th (five starts), he has given up more runs than innings pitched. His last time out was on the 19th against the Yankees and although it was an improvement, it still wasn't all that great as he went seven plus innings and allowed four runs on seven hits, while he walked two and struck out six.

His arsenal:

PITCH VELOCITY FREQUENCY vs LHB vs RHB
Fastball Mid 90's

48% vs LHB

***

52% vs RHB

Tends to stay low and away Tends to stay near the outside edge
Sinker Mid 90's

05% vs LHB

***

01% vs RHB

Low and away Sporadic
Change Mid 80's

25% vs LHB

***

03% vs RHB

Often uses it below the zone, tends to stay away Sporadic
Slider Mid 80's

21% vs LHB

***

44% vs RHB

Low and in Low and away

His splits:

During Santana's 11 year career, he has spent time as both a fly ball pitcher and a ground ball pitcher. So far this season, it's been about even as he's generated balls on the ground 40% of the time, meanwhile flies are hit 39% of the time with the remaining 21% being line drives.

TBF AVG OBP SLG HR K% BB%
vs LHB 127 .272 .352 .523 6 9.5% 8.7%
vs RHB 119 .255 .314 .435 5 18.5% 7.6%

Today's Lineups

MINNESOTA TWINS TAMPA BAY RAYS
Byron Buxton - CF Grady Sizemore - RF
Brian Dozier - 2B Desmond Jennings - LF
Joe Mauer - 1B Evan Longoria - 3B
Miguel Sano - DH John Jaso - DH
Trevor Plouffe - 3B Logan Forsythe - 2B
Eddie Rosario - LF Asdrubal Cabrera - SS
Torii Hunter - RF James Loney - 1B
Kurt Suzuki - C Kevin Kiermaier - CF
Eduardo Escobar - SS Curt Casali - C
Ervin Santana - RHP Nate Karns - RHP

- James Loney is 1 HR away from 100 for his career.

- Asdrubal Cabrera continues to be the team's best offensive player over the past two months as he has slashed .366/.399/.577 with 21 XBH over his last 39 games. Cabera has a hit in 32 of his last 41 games, roughly 80% of them, 14 of those have been multi-hit efforts.

Other Rays Notes:

- James Loney has received a one game suspension for his actions after being ejected from Saturday night's game against the Athletics. He has appealed the suspension and will likely serve it on a day the team is set to face a left-handed pitcher.

- Kevin Kiermaier is having one of the best defensive seasons an outfielder can have and he's approaching some former Tampa Bay centerfielders among the Rays leaderboards

- August 25th in team history, of which they are 4-11 all-time

  • 2006 - Despite accumulating seven hits, the Devil Rays are shutout by the trio of Daniel Cabrera, LaTroy Hawkins, and Chris Ray as the Baltimore Orioles defeated Tampa Bay by the score of 4-0

Hammel's Outing [] Cabrera's Outing

  • 2007 - As the Devil Rays routed the Oakland A's, Scott Kazmir shined on the mound for Tampa Bay as he set a new franchise record with 13 strikeouts during eight innings on the mound. The Devil Rays won the game 14-3

Kazmir's 13 K's [] Gomes Massive HR [] Iwamura's Ridiculous Play

  • 2011 - Again the Rays record seven hits and are again shutout, this time by the trip of Doug Fister, Joaquin Benoit, and Jose Valverde as the Tigers defeated Tampa Bay, 2-0.

  • 2013 - In a game that needed 11 innings, the Yankees came out on top after Jamey Wright allowed Alfonso Soriano to steal third base and score thanks to a sacrifice fly from Curtis Granderson.