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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays

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Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The four day break was a welcome respite for the Rays and their fans.

And we return to good news: Kevin Kiermaier is back. He’ll be joined by Luke Maile (replacing Conger, optioned to Durham this week) and the recently signed Kevin Jepsen. To make room on the 25 man roster, no doubt two relievers will be optioned/DFA’d before tonight’s game. Tyler Sturdevant, Dylan Floro, and Ryan Garton are the only guys with options outside of Matt Andriese, so two of the three are the likely candidates for demotion.

It’s too late to make any real run in all but the pigs flying, hell freezing over scenarios, but players have jobs to play for and they can still ruin other teams chances with a good run in the second half. Kiermaier’s return will surely help the watchability of the Rays, providing a boost to a team that employs some of the highest fly ball rate pitchers in the league.

The Matchups:

Friday: Yovani Gallardo vs Chris Archer

Saturday: Chris Tillman vs Matt Moore

Sunday: Dylan Bundy vs Jake Odorizzi

Dylan Bundy is scheduled to make his first MLB start.

Yovani Gallardo has been pretty mediocre this year since returning from an injury that delayed the start to his season. He owns a 5.82 ERA and 5.18 FIP. Gallardo has only pitched 43.1 innings in his nine starts. The Orioles will be hoping they can get a solid five to six innings of 3 run ball and allow their offense to carry the day. Gallardo’s problem is lack of strikeouts (15.4%) and too many walks (11.8%). Left handed batters have had a field day hitting for .329/.418/.577 and .420 wOBA line against Gallardo.

Chris Tillman makes his turn in the rotation as he seems to do during every series against the Rays. Tillman has returned to a FIP beater that saw him post mid 3s ERA off and low 4s FIP that he was able to put up in 2012-14. Last year he wasn’t fortunate last year as his ERA was 4.99 with a customary mid 4s FIP.

Dylan Bundy makes the first major league start in his career. Bundy’s history reminds you that there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. Once the number four overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bundy was rushed to the majors to help out of the bullpen in 2012, but only lasted 1.2 innings. He missed most of the three seasons dealing with Tommy John surgery and associated setbacks. Bundy has been good out of the pen, throwing 38 innings in 22 appearances. He has a 3.08 ERA and 3.70 FIP. He’s struck out 19.2% of batters faced while walking 7.2%.

Orioles bullpen has outperformed the Yankees pen.

The Orioles bullpen has been a major strength for them over the last several years. Their back end bullpen arms take a second seat to nobody. They might not have the star power of the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances but they have been effective. They also boast a much deeper pen than the Yankees.

Zach Britton has been an absolute beast for several years and this year he’s posted his best results. He’s picked up 27 saves in 37.2 innings of work. He’s threatening Fernando’s Rodney’s season with the Rays as one of the best seasons in the bullpen in baseball history. He owns a 0.72 ERA and 2.03 FIP. He’s struck out 30.3% of batters he’s faced while walking only 7.0%. His FIP is so high because he’s allowed 16.7% HR/FB rate, but he has allowed only one home run this season on an absurd six fly balls. His high rate isn’t really indicative of his skills as he owns a 79.3% ground ball rate and has maintained a rate over 75% over the last three seasons.

Brad Brach is having almost as impressive a season as he enters the series with a 0.91 ERA and 2.53 FIP. He has struck out 31.4% of batters and walked 8.1% of batters. His ERA is suppressed by a 95.1% left on base rate, but he’s been really good.

The Rays will get an opportunity to face bullpen arms early as their pitchers outside of Tillman aren’t extremely likely to be effective enough to get past the fifth inning.

Orioles bats have been perplexing.

Everybody has expected the Orioles offense to carry the show and they have been doing just that, but their damage has been against right handed pitchers. Collectively they own a .281/.340/.482, .350 wOBA, and 115 wRC+ line against right handed pitchers.

Batters against right handed pitching this season with at least 100 PA:

Mark Trumbo 153

Hyun Soo Kim 149

Manny Machado 141

Jonathan Schoop 129

Chris Davis 125

Pedro Alvarez 119

Adam Jones 116

Matt Wieters 107

J.J. Hardy 82

Ryan Flaherty 69

Joey Rickard 63

It’s pretty incredible what they have done against right handed pitchers considering Chris Davis has been their fifth most effective batter. What a roller coaster ride it has been with Hyun Soo Kim: heading out of spring training the Orioles were looking for ways to option or send him back to Korea. Joey Rickard started out the season on fire, but has performed much more like a rule 5 pick would be expected.

Batters against left handed pitching with at least 20 PA:

Manny Machado 154

Joey Rickard 130

Chris Davis 112

Mark Trumbo 100

Jonathan Schoop 98

J.J. Hardy 73

Adam Jones 62

Matt Wieters 43

Who would have expected Chris Davis to be their third most effective bat against left handed pitchers when you have a team that consists of right handed stalwarts such as Mark Trumbo, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters (although a switch hitter has had much more success against LHP in his career).

The biggest surprise is former Rays farmhand Joey Rickard owning the second most effective bat against left handed pitchers. It’s only 87 PA, so we are far from knowing if he can sustain positive value with his bat against LHP, but if he’s able to he becomes a solid fourth or fifth outfielder.

Let’s get the second half started off with a bang. Or at least a win.

Many guys will be playing for jobs and the Rays will need to find out if some of their prospects can become anything worthwhile over the next couple of months. It might be better for the 2017 MLB draft for the Rays to lose more games, but that will make for a very long season for those of us who follow the team.