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Rays Series Preview: The O’s are back in town

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Birdland finally lands in St Pete.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays took care of business in the first half of the 60 game season posting a 19-11 record and looking like near locks for the playoffs as of today. Despite the strong start they dropped the first series to the Baltimore Orioles 0-3. It was a no good road trip that the team righted their next time out, but this time they get the Orioles at Tropicana Field.

The Orioles have been one of the few surprises in the American League sitting at 14-14 and only half a game out of the wild card.

Matchups:

Tuesday 6:40 PM: Tommy Milone vs Tyler Glasnow
Wednesday 6:40 PM: Asher Wojciechowski vs TBA
Thursday 6:40 PM: John Means vs Ryan Yarbrough

Tommy Milone had a great first start against the Rays. He allowed a solo homer to Brandon Lowe on his way to 5.0 innings of one run with eight strikeouts and no walks. It’s not the only great start this season as he followed it up with 6.0 shutout innings against the Washington Nationals. His other starts have been more mediocre, but the overall line has been quite effective with a 4.13 ERA/3.17 FIP/3.77 xFIP. He’s posted a miniscule 2.9% walk rate, but the biggest surprise is his 23.8% strikeout rate that is almost 10% higher than the bulk of his career.

Glasnow put it all back together in his most recent start, so we’ll see if he can keep the good times coming against Baltimore.

Asher Wojciechowski has put up a solid 21.6% strikeout rate and 7.2% walk rate this year, but he’s been done in with a 2.42 HR/9 thanks to a 21.4% HR/FB rate. He’s allowed seven homers in 22.1 innings to this point. He’s mostly kept the Orioles in the game, so he’s done his job.

If Charlie Morton isn’t ready to come off the injured list, the Game 2 here likely belongs to an Opener, followed by Trevor Richards, which is the cadence the Rays went with last time Charlie Morton’s slot in the rotation came up.

A year ago John Means made his first All-Star Game. A year later he’s having a season to forget. In four starts he’s only managed 10.2 innings while posting a 10.13 ERA/7.63 FIP/5.53 xFIP. The four homers allowed has done a bulk of the damage, but he hasn’t made it out of the fifth season and only made it past three innings once.

Yarbrough has performed better than his 4.45 ERA and 15.9% strikeout rate would make one think just looking on paper. His last outing soaked up 6.1 innings, and it’d be great if he could do that again.

On to the offense!

Apparently Hanser Alberto has stopped hitting.

During the three game series in Baltimore the Rays couldn’t get Hanser Alberto out as he went 7-for-15 with two doubles and a homer against Rays pitching. Since the Rays left town he has only hit .250/.274/.362 and put up a 68 wRC+.

As a team the Orioles have done better than most expected posting a .260/.327/.453 line and 109 wRC+.

Anthony Santander (158 wRC+) has led the way with 10 homers. Pedro Severino (167 wRC+) and Renato Nunez (124 wRC+) have helped out while Chance Sisco (188 wRC+) has taken advantage of his opportunities when Severino has not played behind the dish.

Ryan Mountcastle has gotten off to a quick start with a .333/.500/.556 line and 192 wRC+ in his first three MLB games.

The Rays currently trail the Orioles 0-3 in their head to head matchup.

The Rays have already locked up series victories against the New York Yankees (6-1) and Toronto Blue Jays (6-4). They’ve guaranteed at least a tie with Boston Red Sox (5-1) giving them strong tie breaker should they need them for a playoff spot. The lone exception has been the Orioles (0-3). The Rays still have 7 shots, but would need to go 6-1 the rest of the way to lock it up. Having tie breakers against the whole division would help lock up a spot in the playoffs.

If it feels like the Rays have struggled against the lowly Orioles the last few years, it’s because they have. Despite the Rays putting up 90+ wins a year and the Orioles combining to post a .352 winning percentage over that time the Orioles have gone 18-23 (.439 winning percentage) against the Rays (8-11 in 2018, 7-12 in 2019, and 3-0 in 2020).

The Rays need to take care of business and continue winning series. As long as they win series they will end up where they want.

I know that 2020 has kept God occupied, but it sure would be nice if the Rays pitchers could stay healthy this week. Hope it’s not too much to ask.