The Rays return to Tropicana Field after winning five of their last six games, salvaging their road trip with a 5-5 record. And they’ve returned to some good news: Logan Forsythe is ready to return! It’s not clear as of this writing whether he will be reactivated for tonight’s game, but we will surely see him back at second base this weekend. [Update: Forsythe has been activated and Franklin optioned back to the Durham Bulls].
The Astros enter the series 29-33 after dropping three of their last four games. Before the four game series against the Rangers, the Astros had won 11 of 13 to get them within striking distance of .500. Carlos Correa left yesterday’s game with a sprained ankle and is listed as day-to-day.
Friday: Lance McCullers vs Matt Andriese
Saturday: Mike Fiers vs Chris Archer
Sunday: Dallas Keuchel vs Matt Moore
Right handed batters have good matchups this weekend for the Rays.
Friday’s starter, Lance McCullers, is a local product out of Tampa Jesuit High School. He will make his sixth 2016 start after beginning the season on the disabled list. His most recent outing was his best of the season: 7 innings of two run baseball with nine strikeouts and three walks.
In his short career right handed batters have fared much better as they have hit .245/.331/.401 against him.
Mike Fiers heads into the series with a 5.00 ERA and 4.49 FIP. He has apparently lost some swing and miss stuff, as his strike out (which was 27.7% in 2014 and 23.7% in 2015) is down to 16.6% this year. Right handed batters have fared substantially better in the power department this year as they have produced a .235 ISO compared to a .150 for left handed batters. But on the whole, he hasn’t been particularly successful against batters of either hand.
Dallas Keuchel hasn’t performed to his 2014-15 standard. He enters the series with a 5.44 ERA and 4.01 FIP. His walks are up, at 7.6%, and he’s allowing a 17.4% home run per fly ball rate. Right handed batters fare much better as they have hit .296/.357/.476 against Keuchel. With Rays right-handers showing some power of late, the Rays offense could be a tough matchup for Keuchel.
The Astros pen has been one of the best in the league.
The Astros bullpen has been a real strength as they have combined for a 3.25 ERA and 3.07 FIP while leading MLB with 3.7 fWAR.
Luke Gregerson has stepped into the closer role after Ken Giles had a rough start to the season. Gregerson has a 4.28 ERA and 2.98 FIP.
Will Harris has been a beast as he enters the series with a 0.33 ERA and 1.39 FIP. Harris has struck out 28.6% of batters while only walking 3.8%.
Since the calendar turned to May Ken Giles has performed much better as he has a 3.60 ERA and 1.60 FIP and hasn’t allowed a homer. In that time span he has struck out 29.7% of batters and limited walks to 7.8% of batters.
What is left if the Astros are without Carlos Correa for the series?
If Carlos Correa is forced to miss the series the threats in the Astros lineup are significantly diminished. Jose Altuve filled in at shortstop after Correa was removed from yesterday’s game after having only one inning of experience in his professional career.
Carlos Correa is hitting .256/.351/.423, which is down from his best performances but which is still fantastic for a shortstop.
Jose Altuve has been one of the best hitters in all of baseball with a .337/.413/.553 line, along with ten homers and 18 stolen bases. Altuve has boosted his walk rate to 10.6% while keeping a sub 10% strikeout rate.
George Springer has been the other big threat as he’s hit .278/.368/.496 with 14 homers.
Jason Castro has been a productive bat against right handed pitchers as he’s hit .242/.385/.463, 135 wRC+. Colby Rasmus has been above average as he’s hit .242/.330/.435, 108 wRC+.
Against left handed pitchers Carlos Gomez (146 wRC+) and Evan Gattis (142 wRC+) have added support to the big three bats.
Forsythe’s return could be a big catalyst in the Rays making a push toward getting back in the divisional race.
The Rays need to perform better at home where they are 11-15 on the season. The Astros have a good team with a depressed record. The Rays need to continue winning series to make their way back into the playoff race.
Logan Forsythe’s return will be a welcomed sight to a team that has lost a lot defensively with the injuries to Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier.