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Rays vs Reds Preview: Here to stay?

Can the Rays take advantage of a cold Reds team to pad their Wild Card lead?

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays salvaged a split in their four-game series with Detroit thanks to a pair of weekend wins, and they will now look to build on that momentum with Cincinnati headed to the Trop for a three-game series. Game one of the series takes place Monday evening at 7:10 p.m.

The Reds come into the series cold as ice, having dropped nine straight. The Rays send Jake Odorizzi to the mound hoping to reach the three-games-over-.500 mark for the third time this season (the Rays have left to reach four games over .500). The Reds will counter with Scott Feldman.

Starting Pitchers

Jake Odorizzi

Odorizzi has had his two of shortest, non-injury starts of the season in his last three outings. First, the Mariners got to Odorizzi for eight runs (three earned) in 2 ⅓ innings on June 2, then the Blue Jays knocked him out after just 4 ⅓ with five runs (three earned) allowed. The Rays defense didn’t help Odo out either time, but he was far from his sharpest those two times out.

Odorizzi has been relying more on his fastball in June (according to Brooks Baseball), and his velocity has been a tick. It’s tough to go off the three-game sample size of June so far, but it’s something to keep an eye on. It may well be a chicken-and-the-egg situation where Odorizzi has had to go to the fastball more often because he has been in trouble more often, but considering his fastball is the pitch off which hitters have had the most success typically, it’s an interesting development.

Odorizzi doesn’t have particularly strong lefty/righty splits this season (and he has actually done better against lefties in his career as a whole), but he’ll have to be on point as the Reds will have their starting lineup loaded with six bats from the left side.

Scott Feldman

Feldman has been nearly exactly league average throughout his career, with an ERA+ of 97 for his career and 103 for the past five seasons. Feldman has turned into a solid journeyman in his post-Texas days, playing for the Cubs, Orioles, Astros, Blue Jays and now Reds since the start of the 2013 season.

This season has been no different, as Feldman is sporting an ERA+ of 104, and he has a record of 5-5. (Win-loss records don’t tell us much, but it’s still funny that Feldman - Mr. League Average is 37-38 over the past five seasons.) Feldman has a 4.29 ERA that almost-perfectly matches his 4.28 FIP and 4.19 xFIP - there’s not a lot hiding here/

Feldman relies heavily on a sinker/cutter/curve trio of pitches that account for 96 percent of his offerings in 2017. The cutter is by far the most hittable, with a slugging allowed that is 150 points higher than his curve and nearly 200 points higher than his sinker. Feldman uses the cutter most often to start batters off, when the count is 0-0, so the Rays may want to go into the game with an aggressive approach.

Starting Lineups

Today's Lineup

Cincinnati Reds Tampa Bay Rays
Cincinnati Reds Tampa Bay Rays
Billy Hamilton - CF Mallex Smith - CF
Scooter Gennett - 2B Corey Dickerson - LF
Joey Votto - 1B Evan Logoria - 3B
Adam Duvall - LF Logan Morrison - 1B
Eugenio Suarez - 3B Steven Souza - RF
Scott Schebler - RF Tim Beckham - SS
Jesse Winker - DH Trevor Plouffe - DH ***
Tucker Barnhart - C Daniel Robertson - 2B
Jose Peraza - SS Derek Norris - C
Scott Feldman - RHP Jake Odorizzi - RHP

Monday will be the Rays debut for Trevor Plouffe, who was acquired over the weekend.