Tonight the Rays kick off a three game series against the San Francisco Giants in front of one of the biggest regular season crowds in team history. The Tampa Bay area and the Rays will be showing their support for the victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando the team's annual "Pride Night."
It promises to be both an emotional and an exhilarating night.
As for baseball: The Rays have won four straight series and nine of their last twelve games and look to continue their surge against the NL West-leading Giants. The Giants head into the series winners of five in a row.
Friday: Jeff Samardzija vs Chris Archer
Saturday: Jake Peavy vs Matt Moore
Sunday: Albert Suarez vs Jake Odorizzi
The Rays avoid Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner.
The Rays are fortunate to miss the two biggest arms in the rotation that have combined for 196.2 innings of 2.00 ERA baseball.
Former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija is having a bounce back season. He had a disappointing 2015 with the White Sox, posting a 4.96 ERA (4.23 FIP) with a significant decline in strikeouts at 17.9%. His strikeouts are up to 20.5% this year, but are still lower than he saw with the Cubs (22.9-24.9%).
Overall he is in the midst of a good season, currently posting a 3.36 ERA and 3.55 FIP. Samardzija's last three starts have been among his weakest, however, with a 7.36 ERA and 6.27 FIP while allowing 13 runs over 14.2 innings and four homeruns.
2007 Cy Young winner Jake Peavy is is a 35 year old who has lost stuff from his days with the Padres. Peavy has posted a 5.83 ERA and 4.16 FIP this season over 66.1 innings. Three of his last four starts have been very good as he has allowed only one run over 19.2 innings. In the other start he allowed four runs over five innings against the Cardinals.
Former Rays farmhand Albert Suarez takes the hill on Sunday afternoon. Suarez spent 2008-14 in the Rays minor league system and has received his first MLB action this season with the Giants. Suarez spent time in the bullpen before being moved into the rotation and will make his third start of the season.
In each of his starts he has allowed three runs. His last start was the better of the two as he held the Red Sox to 3 runs over 6.1 innings. His last start was ten days ago and he made one long relief appearance, 3.2 innings, on June 13 against the Brewers where he allowed two runs while striking out two and walking none.
The Giants backend of the bullpen has been strong, but effectiveness falls off quickly.
Santiago Castillo, Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, and Cory Gearrin have pitched the bulk of the innings from the pen and done so effectively. They each have ERAs or FIPs in the mid 2s.
Earlier this morning it was announced the Gaints closer, Santiago Castillo, will be going on the paternity list. Congratulations to the Castillo family, and good for you, Santiago, for taking the time to be with your family. This happens to give a big advantage to the Rays as Castillo has been very effective this year.
Hunter Strickland will likely fill in as closer. He has a 3.42 ERA and 2.55 FIP. He has struck out 24.7% of batters and only walked 6.2%. Left handed batters have enjoyed the greater success against him as they have hit .320/.370/.480. His career splits are much closer to neutral as he's allowed a .220/.264/.330 line to left handed batters.
Derek Law has been good in his first stint in the major leagues. He has a 2.82 ERA and 2.46 FIP. He has struck out 21.7% and walked 4.4% of batters. He only has 22.1 innings in the majors, but right handed batters have been more productive as they've hit .268/.317/.375 and lefties have only managed a .188/.188/.375 line.
Buster Posey is having an off year.
Offensively we've become accustomed to former FSU star Buster Posey as the driving force of the Giants offense much in the same way Evan Longoria has been to the Rays. This year Posey's bat hasn't been less productive as he's hitting .274/.335/.456 116 wRC+. That's still great out of the catcher position, but is a sharp fall off from his 140+ wRC+ level of production.
Losing Hunter Pence to the DL has been a big loss for the Giants. Pence was hitting .298/.375/.486 with a 140 wRC+ prior to landing on the disabled list. Brandon Belt , the Giants' other big offensive threat, has hit .301/.412/.514 with a 156 wRC+.
The Giants as a team aren't great offensively, but they are solid with a .256/.330/.394 101 wRC+ team line. The Giants bring great team defense as they are fourth with a combined +19.8 UZR and are tied for the league lead with +34 DRS.
Stay safe and have fun.
The Trop should be a great place to be tonight and I'm sure there will be many who visit this site that will be among those 40,000+ in attendance. Please stay safe and remember the victims of the horrific tragedy in Orlando last Sunday morning. I would love for the Rays to be victorious, but above all I hope they put on a good show and everything goes off without any major problems.