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Rays vs Blue Jays Series Preview: TB hopes for better results against division rival

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have a rough go the last week and half winning only one of their last ten. The Toronto Blue Jays are sitting half a game ahead of the Rays in the American League East standings a game up in the loss column.

The Blue Jays are the only team the Rays play in June that are not currently at least tied for their division lead. The Rays play the Seattle Mariners (7), Washington Nationals (4), New York Yankees (7), and Houston Astros (6) outside of this series against the Blue Jays.

In other words, this would be a good week to win some games. Let’s hope that TBA is up to the challenge.

The Matchups:

Monday 7:10 PM: Sam Gaviglio vs Ryan Yarbrough
Tuesday 7:10 PM: Jaime Garcia vs TBA
Wednesday 1:10 PM: JA Happ vs TBA

JA Happ leads the Blue Jays starting staff

Blue Jays Starters Last 3 Years

Pitcher GS IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Pitcher GS IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Sam Gaviglio 17 103.0 17.6% 7.7% 1.75 3.84 5.29
Jaime Garcia 84 484.2 19.8% 8.2% 1.06 4.20 4.13
JA Happ 90 524.2 22.8% 7.3% 1.03 3.48 3.70

Sam Gaviglio has been solid in a short run this season for the Blue Jays. Gaviglio has a 2.51 ERA and 3.94 FIP through 28.2 innings. In his last start he held the Yankees scoreless for 7.0 innings.

Jaime Garcia hasn’t been the pitcher the Blue Jays expected when signing him to a 1/$10MM deal this winter. Through 53.1 innings he’s posted a 5.57 ERA and 4.94 FIP. Right handed bats have teed off to the tune of a .294/.383/.491 line and .375 wOBA this year. Garcia is coming off one of his best starts of the year in holding the Baltimore Orioles to one run over 6.0 innings.

JA Happ was an underrated free agent signing. He signed a 3/$36MM deal with the Blue Jays before the start of the 2016 season and expires at the end of the current season. He’s been a consistent 3 fWAR pitcher over the last four years. In his last start he allowed one unearned run to the Orioles over 7.0 innings.

The Blue Jays bullpen has been one of the worst in the league.

Blue Jays Relievers Last 3 Years

Pitcher G IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Pitcher G IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Tyler Clippard 213 200.1 26.4% 10.7% 1.44 3.73 4.45
Seung Hwan Oh 167 167.2 26.5% 6.0% 1.02 3.01 3.27
John Axford 159 155.0 22.6% 12.1% 0.93 4.70 4.19
Ryan Tepera 149 152.2 23.6% 8.8% 1.06 3.24 4.08
Aaron Loup 154 115.0 24.0% 8.5% 0.86 4.07 3.75
Joe Biagini 93 106.2 20.9% 7.2% 0.84 3.88 3.72
Danny Barnes 99 103.1 22.8% 9.8% 1.39 3.75 4.54
Tim Mayza 29 27.0 28.9% 5.0% 1.67 5.33 3.73

The Blue Jays relievers haven’t been awful with a 4.02 ERA (11th highest), but their 4.35 FIP (5th highest) and 4.46 xFIP (2nd highest) suggests they’ve been fortunate. They have struggled since losing Roberto Osuna, suspended due to an alleged domestic violence incident. Last week his leave was extended through today, but haven’t seen a statement that provides his return date.

Ryan Tepera has gotten most of the limited save opportunities in Osuna’s absense. His 2.81 ERA and 3.70 FIP has seen him as the most effective reliever for the Blue Jays this year.

Seung Hwan Oh had a fantastic stateside debut in 2016. In 2017 he had a pretty dismal year for a high leverage reliever. This year has been slightly better with a 3.77 ERA and 4.05 FIP.

The Blue Jays bullpen has covered a large workload the last week, but no one person has carried an alarming amount. If the Rays can get to the bullpen early in the series they should be in a good spot to force them to use some of their weaker arms.

The Blue Jays offense has disappointed

Blue Jays Batters Last 3 Years

Batter PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Batter PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Kevin Pillar 1870 38 55 4.6% 14.9% 0.270 0.309 0.406 0.308 91
Kendrys Morales 1803 78 2 8.0% 19.8% 0.260 0.324 0.455 0.333 107
Curtis Granderson 1780 80 18 13.0% 22.8% 0.238 0.344 0.465 0.346 120
Yangervis Solarte 1603 57 4 6.8% 12.4% 0.271 0.326 0.450 0.332 110
Justin Smoak 1464 75 1 11.8% 24.7% 0.244 0.337 0.473 0.346 116
Russell Martin 1376 53 4 12.4% 24.7% 0.218 0.328 0.393 0.318 97
Randal Grichuk 1282 65 15 6.3% 29.9% 0.243 0.296 0.488 0.330 106
Aledmys Diaz 908 30 9 6.7% 13.5% 0.274 0.328 0.453 0.331 107
Devon Travis 836 19 10 4.8% 20.1% 0.283 0.320 0.434 0.324 101
Giovanny Urshela 492 8 0 5.7% 18.3% 0.229 0.278 0.320 0.265 60
Teoscar Hernandez 421 22 3 6.7% 26.8% 0.253 0.304 0.521 0.345 118
Luke Maile 411 8 2 5.4% 28.2% 0.201 0.248 0.324 0.248 51

As a team the Blue Jays are hitting .234/.312/.415 and putting up a 97 wRC+.

Josh Donaldson is on the disabled list once again. He’s struggled in his last year before reaching free agency. He’s been on the disabled list for two weeks, so could return at any point. He needs to get to full running speed after injuring his calf.

Justin Smoak (125 wRC+), Teoscar Hernandez (123 wRC+), and Curtis Granderson (122 wRC+) lead the way offensively.

Yangervis Solarte (108 wRC+) was a solid winter pickup on the trade market. He has defensively versatility. He’s not great anywhere, but he isn’t awful.

The Kendrys Morales contract, 3/$33MM, is looking worse by the day. He enters the series with a 63 wRC+ through 176 plate appearances.

Willy Adames is back!

It’s time to see what the future holds with the recent promotions of Jake Bauers and Willy Adames. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have talented teams and have run incredibly hot to start the year; few Rays fans, I would venture to say, believe the Rays are contenders this year. But we have some great talent in the pipeline, and a chance to see these young guys in action.