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Rays vs Rangers Preview: Post-marathon Monday

Tampa Bay Rays v Minnesota Twins
Working overtime: Ramirez saved last night’s game and gets the start tonight
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

On a day when more than half of the MLB slate was filled with afternoon games, thankfully the Rays have until 8:05 p.m. EST to kick off their series with the Texas Rangers, as the Rays will need every minute of rest they can get after a 15-inning marathon of a series-ending win in Minnesota Sunday. The game was the longest MLB game of the 2017 season, and it will be interesting to see what impact it has on the Rays Monday, as well as moving forward.

The Rays did move back over .500 with the marathon win Sunday, and they now sit just a half game out of the second wild card spot If The Playoffs Started Today. A three-game series with the Rangers (25-26) will be a nice barometer for each team.

Starting Pitchers

Monday’s game (should) see Erasmo Ramirez (3-0, 2.92/3.45/3.66 ERA/FIP/xFIP) face off with Martin Perez (2-5, 3.77/3.73/4.41). The reason that sentence has should in parentheses is that the Rays were in the rather awkward situation of having to use Monday’s probable starter as the closer for Sunday’s win. Ramirez only needed 12 pitches to shut down the Twins for the victory, and he is the Ben Zobrist of pitchers, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but with Jose De Leon officially being called up to the big league roster, it is likely he will piggy-back with Ramirez, coming in after 3-4 innings to throw 3-4 of his own.

Ramirez has been an absolute stud in every role for the Rays this year. If De Leon pitches, it will be his first appearance at the MLB level in a Rays’ uniform after just 17.0 innings (four starts) as a Dodger in his career.

Rangers starter Martin Perez is a six-year veteran who has been in the Rangers’ organization since jump street. He has been exceptionally pedestrian throughout his career, sporting a career ERA of 4.23 which is good for an ERA+ of 101, or one percent better than the league average over that stretch. Perez has been slightly better in terms of run prevention in 2017, but as JT noted in his series preview, most of that is due to a cut in his HR/FB rate. After giving up a long ball in just about one every ten fly balls prior to 2017 (9.5 percent to be exact), Perez is giving up a HR/FB rate of just 7.5 percent this season. That’s why his 4.41 xFIP is nearly identical to his career xFIP (4.36), while his ERA (3.77) and FIP (3.73) are each about a half run better than his career totals.

Perez has never been a strikeout guy (5.50 K/9 career), and 2017 has been no different, as he is striking out just 6.28 batters per nine in a league that has gone K-razy. It’s still relatively early in the season, but Perez’s plate discipline profile in 2017 is rather strange, as he is getting fewer swings both in and out of the strike zone and is also giving up more contact than seasons past, but he is somehow posting better numbers. He could certainly be due for some negative regression, and the Rays would love to get him started in that direction on Monday night.

Starting Lineups

Today's Lineup

Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers
Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers
Steven Souza - RF Shin-Soo Choo - RF
Corey Dickerson - LF Elvis Andrus - SS
Evan Logoria - 3B Nomar Mazara - LF
Logan Morrison - 1B Adrian Beltre - 3B
Rickie Weeks - DH Rougned Odor - 2B
Kevin Kiermaier - CF Jonathan Lucroy - DH
Tim Beckham - SS Joey Gallo - 1B
Derek Norris - C Robinson Chirinos - C
Daniel Robertson - 2B Jared Hoying - CF
Erasmo Ramirez - RHP Martin Perez - LHP

Quick note: This will be the 2017 debut for Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre.