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Rays series preview: it’s time to destroy the Orioles

Three games ahead, with late start times.

Baltimore Orioles v Minnesota Twins
Old friend Alex Cobb
Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays are 4-3 after their first week of the season. Going into the home and home four-game series against the Atlanta Braves a 2-2 split would’ve been seen as a good outcome. After sweeping the front half of the series you get greedy and want more, so dropping the back half of the series feels disappointing.

The Rays have done what they needed to so far. They are behind the 4-1 New York Yankees, but they are in a good spot with FanGraphs giving them a 90.6% chance of making the playoffs.

This weekend the Rays are scheduled to take on the Baltimore Orioles who lost a two game series against the Yankees after winning two of three in their opening series against the Boston Red Sox.

Pitching Matchups

Friday 7:35 PM: Blake Snell vs Alex Cobb
Saturday 7:35 PM: Tyler Glasnow vs Wade LeBlanc
Sunday 1:05 PM: Yonny Chirinos vs TBA

The Orioles pitching rotation is off schedule after having two days off due to the situation with the Miami Marlins who they were scheduled to play a four game series this week in Miami. With the Philadelphia Phillies quarantined due to that situation, MLB decided to have their scheduled opponent (Yankees) play two games scheduled in the future in Baltimore. Last night their best returning pitcher John Means started so the Rays do avoid him.

Alex Cobb was a fixture in the Rays rotation for the first half of the decade, but his time in Baltimore hasn’t been as kind. In two seasons he has only managed 164.2 innings. Health has always been the missing skill from Cobb’s skillset whether it be a line drive to the head, Tommy John surgery, or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome he only had two seasons as a Ray with 150 or more innings pitched and a career best 179.1 innings in 2017. The difference has been he hasn’t provided quality innings when he has been able to take the mound. With Baltimore he had a 5.36 ERA and 5.33 FIP in 2018-19. However he did have an impressive first start against the Red Sox allowing one run in 5.1 innings while picking up six strikeouts. Is Cobb back to being good? He’ll look to shutdown his former team tonight as he looks to continue his rebound.

Wade LeBlanc is a left handed long man/spot starter journyman. He’s not good, but he can fill in with some quantity of mediocre quality innings when needed.

The Rays counter with Blake Snell looking to build on his two inning first start. Tyler Glasnow went four innings in his first start. The Rays throw their two highest upside starters in the first two games of the season looking to continue to get closer to full strength.

Yonny Chirinos looks to build off his four inning scoreless start against the Braves.

Why are the Orioles moving their start times back half an hour? I love that the Rays have moved up their times to 6:40 PM for weekday start times. It makes it much more friendly for those who need to get to bed at a reasonable hour and since you don’t need to allow fans to travel time after work to get to games it seems like a reasonable option. The Orioles and Red Sox have had games start in the 7:30-7:40 PM time range. Not a fan.

Offenses

Around the league things look much like spring training games. Players are much more passive than they typically are. When pitchers are wild it’s led to a huge spike in walk rates for the Rays who have a 12.4% walk rate as a team. When pitchers are in the zone it also leads to nights like last night when Max Fried is throwing strikes and leads to a ton of strikeouts.

The Rays walk based offense with one powerful outburst on Monday offense has looked very inconsistent early on. They are getting base runners by walks, but not coming through with many hits.

So far the Orioles offense has looked similar with a .224/.314/.424 line and 106 wRC+. Jose Iglesias (.500/.500/.750, 249 wRC+), Hanser Alberto (.400/.455/.600, 196 wRC+), Rio Ruiz (.250/.294/.813, 193 wRC+), and Pedro Severino (.231/.333/.538, 139 wRC+) have gotten off to quick starts.

Defense has also been up and down and looks like many spring training games we experienced earlier this year. They need to get in the flow of the season and we should see things clean up as things move forward.

Moving Forward

The Rays need to take advantage of the bad teams and the Orioles are the weakest team the Rays will play this season. Anything less than a 2-1 series victory would be disappointing.

Also of note: there have been two positive tests for the St. Louis Cardinals leading to the postponement of tonight’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. This is the right move as they look to avoid another situation that happened with the Miami Marlins last weekend. Being out in front of any potential outbreak is the only way the league can possibly make it through this attempted 60 game season. If this leads to a breakout I can’t imagine the season lasting much longer, but if they can contain this then it likely will be able to move forward.