The Rays head back to the state of Florida after a costly visit to Detroit that saw them lose two games, plus their platinum glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. The Rays face off against Miami for a four game series. After getting off to a modestly strong start, the Marlins have scuffled a bit of late, and sit just one game over .500. Thus far this season they have fared much better on the road (13-9) than at home (9 - 12).
Monday: Matt Moore vs Wei-Yin Chen
Tuesday: Jake Odorizzi vs Tom Koehler
Wednesday: Justin Nicolino vs Matt Andriese
Thursday: Jose Fernandez vs Drew Smyly
Rays face two lefties, but don’t avoid Jose Fernandez.
The series kicks off with Miami sending Wei-Yin Chen, their major 2016 free agent acquisition, to the mound. The left handed pitcher is to the Rays, who faced him often during his four years in Baltimore. Chen has made 19 starts against the Rays and is 5-6 with a 3.55 ERA, allowing a .269/.322/.464 line with 18 homers. Chen performance this year is consistent with his past, with a slight bump in strikeouts at 7.71 per nine (helps to face the opposing pitcher a few times a game) and walking just 1.65 per 9. He has continued to allowed a higher than average homer/fly ball rate of 12.8%.
Tom Koehler has struggled with command as he’s allowed walks to 13.1% of batters while only striking out 16.2%. Koehler has limited homers to 6.5% of fly balls for the lowest rate of his career to keep his 4.71 ERA from being much worse.
Justin Nicolino is the second left hander the Rays will face. He doesn’t strike guys out as he has a career 6.8% K-rate. This year he has struggled to reach even that standard as in 29.1 innings he has struck out six (4.9%) while walking eleven (8.9%). His 5.12 FIP believes he has been lucky to put up a 4.30 ERA.
In the series finale the Rays face off against the undisputed ace of the Marlins, Jose Fernandez. Fernandez has uncharacteristically struggled with command, walking 11.1% of batters since his return from Tommy John surgery. Fernandez has seen an uptick in strikeouts to an eye-popping 35.9%. The elevated walk rate has limited Fernandez’s innings; he’s averaging just shy of 6 innings per outing. The Rays might have caught a break by facing him at Tropicana Field as he's been much more human on the road throughout his career with a 3.65 ERA and .282 wOBA versus a 1.64 ERA and .228 wOBA at home.
Marlins Starting Pitchers Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Batters:
The left handed pitchers Chen and Nicolino struggle against right handed batters and should be a good matchup for the Rays offense.
Koehler has slight reverse splits, so it would be a good opportunity to get the guys who are performing the best regardless of handedness.
Fernandez allows very little to right handed batters, so the Rays need to get as many left handed batters in the lineup as possible.
Marlins Starting Pitchers Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Batters:
All four pitchers are pretty solid against left handed batters with the two lefties leading the way. Koehler is slightly worse against right handers.
Fernandez really needs to be attacked by left handed bats. Unfortunately the Rays lost one of one of those when Kiermaier went down, so the work will need to be done by Brad Miller, Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison, and Hank Conger.
Marlins bullpen is very similar to the Rays.
The Marlin’s bullpen has had three reliable options in A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough, and David Phelps. Ramos has picked up 13 saves with a 2.00 ERA, but has had issues with a 16.0% walk rate. Barraclough has had a similar problem, 15.9% bb-rate, but has posted a 2.40 ERA. David Phelps has pitched a lot and been very good (1.44 ERA, 1.87 FIP) over 25 innings. The less we see of those three pitchers in the series the better.
Bryan Morris has played the role of Steve Geltz in the Marlins bullpen as he’s allowed a 30.8% home run per fly ball rate leading to a 6.55 FIP, but has managed to only allow a 3.24 ERA over 16.2 innings.
Marlins Relievers Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Batters:
Ramos and Barraclough have been really tough on right handed batters, but outside of them there’s nobody that really shuts down right handed batters.
Marlins Relievers Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Batters:
The Marlins bullpen doesn’t have a single left handed pitcher. Left handed batters have fared well against this group of pitchers with Ramos being the best option.
Is Giancarlo Stanton the Marlins third best outfielder?
The Marlins outfield is their strength as Giancarlo Stanton (.211/.324/.469 111 wRC+) has been their third best outfielder behind Christian Yelich (.320/.420/.524 156 wRC+) and Marcell Ozuna (.311/.355/.553 143 wRC+).
Stanton is currently in a really deep slump. Over the last week he’s 1 for 22 with 17 strikeouts and 3 walks. Keeping Stanton in check will be a key for the pitching staff. The Marlins have struggled offensively as they’ve only scored nine runs over their past five games (1-4 record).
The PED suspension of Dee Gordon has opened up consistent playing time for former Rays farmhand Derek Dietrich. He’s taken advantage of his opportunity in posting a .282/.387/.466, .368 wOBA, 130 wRC+ line.
Marlins Batters Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Pitchers:
Against right handed pitchers the offense is led by its outfielders, Yelich, Ozuna, and Stanton. They are joined by Justin Bour and Dietrich as the real threats.
There isn’t a lot of depth against right handed pitchers, but the top five can do damage. Rays pitchers need to take advantage of the weak bottom of the lineup.
Marlins Batters Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Pitchers:
Against left handed pitchers the outfielders are joined by lefty mashers Martin Prado and Chris Johnson. Their lineup is much more potent against left handed pitching.
J.T. Realmuto brings a good bat for a catcher that is stronger against left handed pitching.
Rays starting pitching needs to get on track.
The key to this series will likely fall on the Rays starting pitchers keeping the Marlins offense at bay. Playing by National League rules means at least one of the nine outs out to come easily! The Rays bats need to continue doing what they do especially to the two left handed pitchers.
This series will feature two afternoon games, Tuesday at 12:10 PM and Thursday at 1:10 PM. Tuesday afternoon’s game will be an off day for Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson as the game will be shown on Fox Sports Florida with the Marlins crew.