clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Rays vs. Astros Series Preview: Astros need to use visitor’s clubhouse this time

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have won eight straight at home including their last five against the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals. The Rays sit one game under .500 as they finish up a daunting June schedule where they seemed be facing the MLB elite nearly every day.

But that stretch isn’t over yet: there are still four games against the Houston Astros, who have gone 5-3 since the Rays broke their 12 game winning streak in Houston.

The Matchups:

Thursday 7:10 PM: Lance McCullers, Jr. vs Ryne Stanek
Friday 7:10 PM: Gerrit Cole vs Wilmer Font
Saturday 4:10 PM: Justin Verlander vs Matt Andriese
Sunday 1:10 PM: Charlie Morton vs Blake Snell

Don’t the Astros have backend starters we can face?

Astros Starters Last 3 Years

Pitcher GS IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Pitcher GS IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Lance McCullers Jr. 66 373.1 26.2% 9.4% 0.77 3.81 3.34
Gerrit Cole 87 537.0 24.5% 6.5% 0.94 3.57 3.38
Justin Verlander 102 669.0 26.9% 6.8% 1.04 2.95 3.39
Charlie Morton 61 348.2 25.6% 8.7% 0.93 3.72 3.69

Apparently the answer to that question is no. The closest thing is former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, but he pitched last night unfortunately.

When Lance McCullers Jr. is healthy enough to be on a major league mound he has thrown quality innings. This year he has a 3.82 ERA and 3.62 FIP in 94.1 innings. In his last start he allowed three runs in 6.0 innings to the Kansas City Royals. Over his last six outings he hasn’t been good with a 4.84 ERA and 4.91 FIP. For him, a visit to the Trop is a homecoming. Let’s hope his friends and family keep him busy with ticket requests.

Gerrit Cole has returned to peak form with the Astros after two down seasons. He has posted a 2.56 ERA and 2.96 FIP with a strikeout rate of 36.3%, a gain of over 12% over his career rate. In his last start he held the Royals to one run in 5.0 innings. The last time the Rays faced him they put up four runs in 7.0 innings.

Justin Verlander is having one of the best years of his career with a 1.82 ERA and 2.70 FIP. This is pretty amazing when you consider he is 35 and has a Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player in his decorated career. In his last start the Toronto Blue Jays put up four runs in 6.2 innings. The Rays only managed a single run against him in 6.2 innings earlier this year.

Charlie Morton has been more top of the rotation pitcher this year than the backend starter people thought the Astros were signing after the 2016 season. He has a 2.54 ERA and 3.55 FIP in 95.2 innings. In his last start he held the Blue Jays scoreless for 7.0 innings. The Rays managed one unearned run off him in 6.0 innings earlier this season.

The Astros bullpen has seen one of the smallest workloads

Astros Relievers Last 3 Years

Pitcher G IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Pitcher G IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Collin McHugh 87 393.0 23.0% 6.8% 0.92 3.57 3.50
Chris Devenski 143 221.2 28.8% 6.4% 0.69 2.23 2.75
Brad Peacock 77 198.2 29.4% 9.7% 0.95 2.94 3.38
Ken Giles 198 194.0 32.3% 7.5% 0.65 3.11 2.39
Hector Rondon 186 175.2 28.8% 6.2% 1.08 2.92 3.23
Will Harris 184 174.2 26.9% 5.7% 0.88 2.89 2.97
Tony Sipp 157 125.2 23.9% 9.3% 1.50 4.01 4.54

Apparently teams with five excellent, workhorse starters don’t use their bullpen much.

Where the Rays have split their innings more evenly between starters and the bullpen the Astros bullpen has thrown the second fewest innings in all of baseball at 229.1 innings. This is 119.2 innings fewer than the Rays. The Astros have the second lowest ERA at 2.63 and their 2.63 FIP leads baseball and is one of only two teams below 3.00.

Ken Giles has received most of the save opportunities and has posted an ugly 4.23 ERA, but the 1.94 FIP paints a rosier picture of the work he’s done.

Chris Devenski has been more traditional reliever than multi-inning weapon out of the bullpen. The results have been excellent with a 1.38 ERA and 2.27 FIP in 32.2 innings.

Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock are former starters that provide length when a starter does falter.

The Astros bullpen should be at full strength to start this series.

The Astros have staked claim to the majors best offense

Astros 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+
Jose Altuve 2127 64 91 7.9% 11.1% 0.340 0.398 0.524 0.392 152
George Springer 1879 82 22 10.5% 20.2% 0.271 0.359 0.479 0.360 130
Carlos Correa 1802 74 27 11.2% 20.4% 0.284 0.365 0.491 0.364 134
Marwin Gonzalez 1513 50 23 7.2% 21.6% 0.276 0.335 0.452 0.337 115
Josh Reddick 1488 39 24 8.8% 13.6% 0.287 0.348 0.439 0.338 115
Evan Gattis 1394 73 3 7.0% 20.6% 0.255 0.312 0.491 0.338 116
Brian McCann 1343 57 2 10.3% 17.9% 0.228 0.319 0.404 0.314 97
Alex Bregman 1202 41 26 9.7% 16.2% 0.278 0.353 0.485 0.357 128
Yulieski Gurriel 980 25 6 3.8% 10.5% 0.293 0.323 0.451 0.330 109
Jake Marisnick 888 31 34 5.6% 32.7% 0.218 0.274 0.390 0.286 80
Tyler White 354 11 1 8.2% 23.4% 0.229 0.297 0.404 0.301 90
Tony Kemp 283 2 6 9.2% 14.8% 0.254 0.327 0.347 0.299 90
Max Stassi 213 10 0 9.4% 28.2% 0.239 0.321 0.457 0.335 116

The Astros have hit .266/.338/.440 and put up a 117 wRC+ for the best line in the majors. They lead the majors with 426 runs (5.19 runs per game).

Jose Altuve lead the offense with a 153 wRC+, but it might surprise some to find out that Alex Bregman isn’t far behind with a 148 wRC+.

Carlos Correa (129 wRC+), George Springer (123 wRC+), Evan Gattis (123 wRC+), Josh Reddick (116 wRC+), and Max Stassi (125 wRC+) provide a complementary punch to an offense that has very few opportunities for pitchers to catch a breath.

Good luck to Rays pitchers, especially lefties who have to go through the top of the lineup.

The Rays look to end the month of June on a positive note.

Yeah, that “Verlander vs. Andriese” match-up seems sort of emblematic of a series in which the Rays will be considered the underdogs pretty much every day. But as we all know, baseball’s gonna baseball and anything can happen.

The June schedule has been brutal, but so far the Rays have come out with a 11-13 record while playing well against the best teams in the league. Once the calendar flips to July and the Astros leave town the schedule lightens significantly.

The Rays have put themselves in a position to make things interesting and the young guys are bringing the excitement.