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Series Preview: Rays take on Texas Rangers

Team returns home after successful West Coast swing

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays welcome the Texas Rangers to Tropicana Field for a three game series. The Rays come in fresh off a 4-2 west coast trip. The Rangers were just swept by the Baltimore Orioles.

The Rays currently possess the top wild card spot and are second in the American League East. They trail the Boston Red Sox by 2.5 games. At four games under .500, the Rangers trail the division leading Astros by 18 games, but are only 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card slot.

The Matchups:

Friday 7:10 PM: Yu Darvish vs Alex Cobb
Saturday 7:10 PM: Andrew Cashner vs Chris Archer
Sunday 1:10 PM: Tyson Ross vs Jake Odorizzi

The Rays have to face Yu Darvish

In game one the Rays take on the unquestioned ace of the Rangers staff, Yu Darvish. Darvish has been the only Rangers starter to stay healthy. He’s thrown 125.1 innings of 3.45 ERA and 3.73 FIP baseball over 20 starts. He piles up strikeouts and doesn’t issue too many walks, with left handers faring slightly better against him. In his last start he allowed three runs, two earned, in 6.2 innings against the Kansas City Royals. The last time the Rays faced Darvish was in his final start in 2016, when Tampa Bay managed one run in six innings.

Andrew Cashner has pitched to a 3.58 ERA, but the 4.56 FIP suggests he’s been quite lucky. His strikeout rate has plummeted to an anemic 11.6%. He also walks 10.2% of batters faced. He’s done a good job avoiding fly balls and has seen few of them leave the park. Left handed bats have been more successful doing damage with a .140 ISO compared to a .104 ISO allowed to right handed batters. In his last start he allowed three runs in 6.2 innings against the Orioles.

Tyson Ross joined Cashner on one year deals with the Rangers. Ross spent almost all of last year injured, and his health hasn’t been much better this year. He has made six starts and thrown 28.2 innings with a 7.22 ERA and 5.86 FIP. His 17.2% strikeout rate and 12.5% walk rate aren’t anything to write home about. In his last start he got blasted by the Orioles offense for nine runs, eight earned, in 3.1 innings.

The Rangers bullpen has been underwhelming

As a group the Rangers relievers have put up a 4.57 ERA and 4.49 FIP. They have a 21.6% strikeout rate and 9.6% walk rate. Their 1.49 WHIP is only bested by the New York Mets.

Matt Bush has picked up 10 of the team’s 15 saves. He has a 3.60 ERA and 4.00 FIP.

Keone Kela has been their best right handed reliever despite starting the season in the minors as a punishment for behavioral problems. He has a 2.64 ERA and 3.04 FIP. He has a huge 35.9% strikeout rate and walks 10.9% of batters.

Alex Claudio has been their best left handed reliever. Claudio has a 2.59 ERA and 3.53 FIP. He has a middling 17.6% strikeout rate, but he limits walks to 5.3% of batters faced. He has shut down left handed bats. He has allowed a .131/.172/.200 and .165 wOBA.

Despite getting swept by the Orioles, the Rangers bullpen seems to be well rested. They haven’t had an off day since the all-star break, but Jeremy Jeffress was the only pitcher to throw in the past two days. Jeffress has thrown three of the past four days, so he’s likely unavailable tonight. Jeffress is the only pitcher to throw more than once in the past four days.

The Rangers offense has disappointed

This year the Rangers have put up a .238/.313/.423 line and 92 wRC+. They are very similar to the Rays offense. Their 142 homers are third most in baseball. They strikeout a lot and earn their fair share of walks.

The indefatigable Adrian Beltre, age 38, has led their offense. He got off to a late start after suffering an injury during the World Baseball Classic, but is currently hitting .281/.371/.510 and put up 129 wRC+.

Joey Gallo (22) and Mike Napoli (21) lead the way in the home run department. Gallo has put up a 111 wRC+ despite a batting average below .200. Napoli has only managed a 90 wRC+ due to a .283 OBP.

After coming over at last year’s trade deadline, Jonathan Lucroy hasn’t posted a successful season with the Rangers. He’s put up a 70 wRC+ and lost the starting catcher gig to former Ray Robinson Chirinos. In contrast, Chirinos can be counted as a bright spot for the Rangers, with 120 wRC+ over 147 plate appearances.

Roughned Odor has probably been the biggest disappointment. After putting up 106 and 107 wRC+s during his past two seasons for the Rangers, this year that has plummeted to 60 wRC+. He has hit 17 homers, but is hitting .215/.254/.395.

The Rays second half playoff push returns to St. Pete.

The Rays return home for their first home series after the all-star break with possession of a playoff spot. They have continued to win series, even if they haven’t sustained a longer winning streak. Thus far, that’s been enough keep them in reach of the AL East lead.

The Rays are where they hoped they would be when the season began. The team has momentum and there’s excitement within the team. Hopefully Rays fans will show that they share this excitement by showing up at the Trop, where it’s always a cool 72 degrees and where a giveaway that rivals the Zimbear for that mix of weird and wonderful will be available on Saturday night: