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Series Preview: Rays take on division rival Blue Jays

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It would be an understatement to say the Tampa Bay Rays have had a disappointing month of August. But....they won their last game! and August isn’t even over so, who knows what we’ll be writing next week?

But back to realty. The Rays lost a series to the Seattle Mariners, before which they lost a series to these same Blue Jays. In fact we can’t even remember when they last won a series. But that means there is nowhere to go but up.

The Rays are currently just one game ahead of the Blue Jays in the battle to avoid the ALE cellar.

The Matchups:

Tuesday 7:10 PM: Chris Rowley vs Chris Archer
Wednesday 7:10 PM: Marcus Stroman vs Austin Pruitt
Thursday 1:10 PM: J.A. Happ vs Alex Cobb

The Rays get another shot at Chris Rowley.

Chris Rowley makes his third career start tonight. It will be his second straight start against the Rays. Last time, the Rays only managed two runs in five innings. They had their opportunities to put up more runs with five walks, but weren’t able to get the big hit. Perhaps they will benefit from having faced him recently.

The Rays also get another shot against Marcus Stroman, who will make his second straight start against the Rays. Last week he allowed two runs in 6.1 innings while shutting down the Rays offense. For the season he has a 2.99 ERA and 3.68 FIP. Stroman has been relatively split neutral.

Lefty J.A. Happ will take the mound for game three. He’s had a very solid season with a 3.90 ERA and 4.04 FIP. His 22.8% strikeout rate is his highest since 2012. Left handed bats have been shut down with a .219/.230/.397 and .262 wOBA allowed this season. In his last start he allowed five runs in five innings to the Chicago Cubs. It will be the first time Happ faces the Rays this season.

Roberto Osuna leads the bullpen.

The Blue Jays bullpen has been asked to carry a major workload. They’ve thrown the third most innings out of the bullpen at 447.0 innings. The Rays have thrown the ninth fewest at 399.0 innings. The Blue Jays have a 4.35 ERA and 3.98 FIP.

Roberto Osuna is their leader in the pen. His 3.61 ERA isn’t great, but his 1.49 FIP is elite. He’s struck out 34.5% of batters and walked 3.4%. He’s been snake unfortunate posting a very low 61.4% left on base rate.

Dominic Leone, Ryan Tepera, and Danny Barnes have been positive contributors and thrown a lot of quality innings. Aaron Loup is their LOOGY.

Due to the off day yesterday the Toronto bullpen should be at full strength for this series.

Josh Donaldson has been on fire in the month of August.

Overall the Blue Jays offense has put up a disappointing .241/.316/.410 line and 91 wRC+. In August the offense hasn’t been a lot better with a 95 wRC+, but Josh Donaldson has gone off, as we saw all too clearly last week. Donaldson has a 236 wRC+ with nine homers this month. Steve Pearce’s 156 wRC+ is the only other bat above 101 wRC+.

For the season Justin Smoak (146 wRC+) and Josh Donaldson (144 wRC+) lead the offense. Ezequiel Carrera (116 wRC+) and Steve Pearce (114 wRC+) have helped out in part time roles.

Their big off-season signings Kendrys Morales (93 wRC+) and Jose Bautista (89 wRC+) have been very disappointing.

Desperate to add offense during their recent series with the Cubs, the Blue Jays gave Donaldson made his first professional start at shortstop and Jose Bautista played third base for the second time this season. The Cubs swept them however so it’s not clear whether that experiment will continue.

The Rays head down the home stretch.

The Rays aren’t out of it, but it’s getting late. They are four games back in the wild card race, but would have to jump half a dozen teams.

There are about six weeks left in the regular season. The baseball season is a wild ride. You’re never as bad as you look at your worst or as good as you look at your best.