The Los Angelenos are in town making their first trip to Tropicana Field since 2007. As the Rays welcome back Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir, J.P. Howell, former farmhand Adam Libertore the visit has a class reunion feel.
The Dodgers come in scuffling offensively as they had lost six in a row before Clayton Kershaw was able to stop the skid on Sunday with a complete game. As the Dodgers won that match 1-0 and Kershaw drove in the game's only run, the team still would seem to be in a bit of a slump. We're proud to note that the Rays have managed to field a similarly anemic offense for a fraction of the payroll.
The Match ups:
Tuesday: Scott Kazmir vs Matt Moore
Wednesday: Alex Wood vs Drew Smyly
The Rays have two favorable matchups for this abbreviated two game series. They will be able to mobilize their right handed bats and do what they have done best over the last few years -- mash lefties. This year the Rays haven't lost a beat as they bring in a .251/.315/.419, .322 wOBA, 112 wRC+ line against lefties.
The Rays are fortunate to have missed Kershaw's slot in the rotation and will have a much easier path to victory this series.
The left handed pitchers Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood will face a difficult task as the Rays will likely deploy entirely right handed lineups except for Kevin Kiermaier. While they aren’t significantly worse against right handed batters they show some splits and the Rays hitters should take advantage of it.
The major differences are lower OBPs allowed to lefty hitters through lower walk rates. Alex Wood is good at limiting damage against left handed batters as he allows only a .081 ISO. Kiermaier will have his hands full, but he'll remain in the lineup for his elite glove.
The bullpen for the Dodgers has seen limited work of late, during which time they have not been very effective. In the last seven days the only pitcher that has seen more than 2.1 innings is Louis Coleman, who has thrown four innings over three appearances. Kenley Jansen, Adam Liberatore, and J.P. Howell have only pitched one inning each.
As the Rays will stack right handed batters, the Dodgers righty relievers are most likely to get the call. Of those, Jansen is not a pitcher the Rays batters will want to face. He's one of the best relievers in MLB over the past few seasons. Otherwise the Dodger's bullpen has not had great results from the right side.
Southpaw relievers have had better success, although our friend JP Howell has struggled. So far on the season he has only struck out two and walked one over seven innings while allowing seven runs without a single home run.
The Dodgers are coming off a particularly tough stretch where they have only managed to put up a .159/.268/.236, .233 wOBA, 42 wRC+ line over the past seven days.
The Dodgers have been one of the worst teams against left handed pitching this season. They have only put up .228/.295/.366, .258 wOBA, and 78 wRC+.
Yasiel Puig is the one big bat to worry about for a left handed pitcher. He has struggled to start the year with a .239/.300/.380, .300 wOBA, 84 wRC+ line. The Rays pitchers will need to make sure he stays cold.
Howie Kendrick has been notorious for as a Ray killer in the past, hitting .349/.395/.540 over 206 plate appearances. However, he has had a LoMoesque start to the season at .143/.172/.143, .143 wOBA, -15 wRC+. Keeping him cold against the Rays will be beneficial.
The Dodgers have a really good offense against right handed pitchers, led by Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, and Corey Seager as really good bats in the 130-140 wRC+ range. Their lineup is really deep versus righties, but luckily for the Rays they should have very few opportunities.
This is a battle between two offenses that have been scuffling over the last week. The good news for the Rays is they get their preferred match up against left handed pitchers while avoiding Clayton Kershaw. For all the struggles on offense the Rays have still mashed lefties.
The Rays also start two lefties in an ideal match up with Matt Moore and Drew Smyly slated to start. From the bullpen Xavier Cedeno and Enny Romero will likely need to pitch some quality innings to get to the finish line.
I know it's starting to sound like a broken record, but I really like this match up for the Rays and they should be solid favorites in both games. The Rays should be able to unleash their right handed bats on some middle tier left handed starters.