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Rays vs White Sox Preview: Deja vu all over again

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A chance to win a series? A chance to get back to .500? This all seems so familiar

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me when you’ve heard this before. The Tampa Bay Rays will look to win the deciding game in a series in a game in which the Rays can get back to .500 on the season.

In a season that has felt like it has had its share of ups and downs, the Rays have never fallen more than three games under .500, nor have they risen more than three games over .500. Thursday is just another chance to get back to the perfect symmetry of .500, while snapping a one-series losing streak. The Rays haven’t lost back-to-back series since the Kansas City-Toronto debacle in early May, and they will look to keep things that way when they face off with the 25-32 Chicago White Sox at 7:10 this evening.

Starting Pitchers

Jake Odorizzi

Odo will toe the mound for Tampa, fresh off his worst start of the 2017 season, an outing in which he gave up only three earned runs but was chased after recording just seven outs. Odorizzi was done in by a couple of costly errors from the Rays defense, as he yielded eight runs total, including two long balls from a lively Mariner offense.

Despite that tough outing, Odorizzi has had a strong campaign in 2017. He is sporting a 3.53 ERA, a slight improvement off his 2016 season and the second-best ERA of his career to date. As has been the case throughout most of his career, Odorizzi is beating his FIP once again, sporting a far uglier 5.24 FIP and 4.53 xFIP.

Odorizzi has made a living out of doing better than FIP though, thanks in part to a fly ball-heavy approach that peaked in 2014 with a 48.7 percent fly ball rate. Odo is allowing 41.5 percent fly balls this season, but he has been hit a bit harder on those fly balls, as his HR/FB rate (18.0 percent) is by far the highest of his career. If those fly balls go back to leaving the yard at the 10.5 percent pace he has posted in his career, it should be enough to cancel out any negative regression he is due for with his .225 opponent BABIP this season.

Derek Holland

Holland has been both the best and luckiest White Sox starting pitcher in 2017. Holland has the lowest ERA (3.43) of any of the five main White Sox starters, but his FIP (5.05) and xFIP (5.05) rank fourth and third, respectively, among the five.

Holland made a name for himself in Texas, tossing nearly 1,000 innings for the Rangers (985.0, to be exact) before moving to Chicago this most recent offseason. (He also made a name for himself with this gloriously heinous moustache and a Mike Trout-esque love of weather.) This 2017 campaign has been his most successful since 2013, as he has taken his strikeout rate (7.71) to its highest point since 2013, and he is suppressing runs at a better pace than basically any other time in his career.

Holland has been relying heavily on his curveball in 2017, and he is turning away from his fastball more often than ever before in a sharp change in pitch profile. However, much of the rest of his profile looks similar to recent seasons when he had big struggles. He isn’t getting many more whiffs on his pitches, and he is actually allowing a career-high hard hit ball rate. It’s because of this that he has been tabbed as one of the biggest candidates for heavy regression, and he saw some of that his last time out, getting smacked for eight runs (unlike Odorizzi’s eight, they were all earned) in 2 ⅓ innings.

It will be a battle of pitchers coming off outings in which they allowed more runs than they recorded outs.

Starting Lineups

Today's Lineup

Chicago White Sox Tampa Bay Rays
Chicago White Sox Tampa Bay Rays
Adam Engel - CF Steven Souza - RF
Melky Cabrera - DH Corey Dickerson - DH
Jose Abreu - 1B Evan Logoria - 3B
Avisail Garcia - RF Logan Morrison - 1B
Todd Frazier - 3B Tim Beckham - SS
Tim Anderson - SS Kevin Kiermaier - CF
Yolmer Sanchez - 2B Daniel Robertson - 2B
Kevan Smith - C Derek Norris - C
Willy Garcia - LF Peter Bourjos - LF
Derek Holland - LHP Jake Odorizzi - RHP