The Rays leave the pit of despair in Kansas City to head to the face off against the worse team in the American League. The Rays have the second worst record in the AL, but are 7.5 games ahead of the Twins. The distance between the Rays and Twins is only 0.5 game closer than the Rays and the second wild card spot.
Thursday: Matt Moore vs Phil Hughes
Friday: Jake Odorizzi vs Ricky Nolasco
Saturday: Matt Andriese vs Ervin Santana
Sunday: Drew Smyly vs Tyler Duffey
These matchups are subject to change as Kyle Gibson was scheduled to open the series, but the Twins are delaying his return from the disabled list.
Will Rays bats get healthy against the worst rotation in the American League?
The Twins rotation owns a 5.36 ERA that is second in MLB behind the Rockies. They are giving up runs and not giving much length. Starters have thrown the fewest innings in the AL, 19.2 innings behind the Rays staff while playing one more game.
Kyle Gibson was scheduled to make his return from the disabled list tonight to face the Rays, but he has been scratched and Phil Hughes will take his place. One guy that doesn’t strike guys out is replaced by another. The only major difference this season has been Hughes doesn’t walk nearly as many. Hughes sports a 5.74 ERA and 5.11 FIP. Left handed batters have teed off against Hughes for a .361/.430/.514 triple slash line and .408 wOBA.
Ricky Nolasco hasn’t been as bad as his 5.28 ERA would suggest. He has posted a 3.76 FIP, 21.5% K-rate, 4.9% bb-rate, but only has a 58.6% strand rate. Left handed hitters have only hit slightly better than right handers this year against Nolasco.
Ervin Santana has been the Twins best performing starter with a 4.13 Era and 3.89 FIP. Right handed hitters have hit better this year with a .293/.342/.500 and .352 wOBA against, but Santana hasn’t shown reverse splits in the past.
Tyler Duffey had an impressive ten start run last season when he posed a 3.10 ERA and 3.24 FIP over 58 innings. Duffey has lowered his walk rate this year, but has had trouble stranding runners as he’s only stranded 66.8% of runners. This has led to a 4.57 ERA while he has a 3.43 FIP. Left handed batters have been much more successful as they’ve hit for a .338/.380/.459 and .361 wOBA line against Duffey.
The Twins bullpen is a real weakness.
The Twins bullpen hasn’t performed as expected this year as they have only had their closer Glen Perkins available to pitch two innings. Their second man up, Kevin Jepsen, has been really bad as he has a 5.91 ERA and 5.60 FIP.
Trevor May has been able to strike batters out at a 33.6% clip, but is an extreme fly ball pitcher that has had a problem giving up homeruns. This had led to a 5.13 ERA and 3.92 FIP.
Their best performer has been lefty Fernando Abad who has been lights out with a 0.93 ERA and 2.03 FIP over 19.1 innings. Michael Tonkin has also been a solid performer with a 2.84 ERA and 3.51 thanks to a 29.8% strikeout rate.
The Twins have scored the fewest runs in the AL.
The Twins have only managed to put 192 runs on the board this season. There have only been three productive bats for most of the season for the Twins in Joe Mauer (124 wRC+), Eduardo Nunez (131 wRC+), and Miguel Sano (117 wRC+).
Many players have underperformed expectation led by Brian Dozer (74 wRC+). They have a lot of young pieces that show promise for the future, but they haven’t gotten the production they have needed to turn the corner.
The Rays need to take advantage of the soft spots in their schedule.
The Braves might be the worst team by overall talent in the majors, but the Twins trail the Braves in wins. The Rays have an opportunity to face a team that is really struggling to do much. They need to perform better in every facet of the game. They have the talent to turn this around, but they can’t let the hole get much deeper.