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Rays vs Jays preview: Just win, baby

Archer vs A Guy With Two Career Starts. Sounds like a trap game if I’ve ever heard one

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays and Jays will battle it out for the bottom of the AL East on Tuesday, as the two teams currently reside in the fourth and fifth spots in the division after Tampa Bay’s recent slide. The Rays hold a one game lead on the Jays and haven’t fallen to fifth in the division all season.

Besides avoiding the cellar, the Rays are still “only” four games out of the second wild card spot, and although there are five teams between the Rays and the current second wild card, Minnesota Twins, there’s still some light flickering in the oil lamp that is the 2017 Rays’ playoff hopes. The win streak has to start somewhere, right?

Probable Starters

Chris Archer

The Rays’ 28-year-old ace has turned in another strong season in 2017, with FanGraphs valuing his worth to the club at 4.2 wins already this season (seventh among qualified pitchers). Archer is striking out more batters than ever (11.2 K/9), and his walk rate is the lowest since 2013. Those two factors have helped contribute to his 3.20 FIP, good for top ten among qualified pitchers in all of baseball.

Archer has used his slider more than ever in 2017, going to the pitch an impressive 44.4 percent of the time. When combined with his 47.8 percent fastball usage, it’s impressive that Archer can sustain the success he has, given the relatively limited pitch mix (7.7 percent changeup is only other pitch Brooks Baseball has him down for in 2017).

Archer will be up against a Toronto lineup that has four righties, three lefties, and two switch-hitters. Archer started the season with some rough splits against lefties, but he has seen his numbers come back to just about where they would be expected in the past few months. The heart of the Jays order is as intimidating as ever, but it certainly has some easier spots around the edges than in seasons past. Overall, the Jays rank 23rd in wRC+ this season, but that rank improves to 16th over the past 30 days.

Chris Rowley

Rowley is a 27-year-old rookie righty for the Jays, who has made two starts in his MLB career so far. For true Rays fans, they know what that means… be on no-hitter watch.

Rowley owns a 2.61 ERA in his first two starts as a Jay: first, 5 1/3 innings against the Pirates with one run allowed ten days ago, and second, five innings with two runs allowed against our very own Rays five days ago. Rowley got the no-decision in that last outing against the Rays, and it could have been a lot worse. The Rays worked him for five walks and nine base runners total over those five innings, with only a bit of poor hitting with runners on base allowing Rowley to put up a nice ERA for the game.

Rowley attacked the Rays with 53.3 percent sinkers in his most recent start, which appears to be his M.O.

He did go to the change a bit more against the Rays, and given that the Rays had a SLG of .000 against the pitch, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go back to the well, and often, with the changeup tonight. The Rays will try to attack him with five lefties in their starting lineup. Speaking of which:

Starting Lineups

Today's Lineup

Toronto Blue Jays Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays Tampa Bay Rays
Nori Aoki - RF Kevin Kiermaier - CF
Josh Donaldson - SS Lucas Duda - DH
Justin Smoak - 1B Evan Logoria - 3B
Jose Bautista - 3B Logan Morrison - 1B
Kendrys Morales - DH Steven Souza - RF
Steve Pearce - LF Corey Dickerson - LF
Miguel Montero - C Wilson Ramos - C
Kevin Pillar - CF Brad Miller - 2B
Ryan Goins - 2B Adeiny Hechavarria - SS
Chris Rowley - RHP Chris Archer - RHP