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Rays Series Preview: Capital Punishment

Two day series in DC incoming

MLB: Washington Nationals at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays scraped by with a series victory against the playoff contender Miami Marlins, and accordingly still own the best record in the American League at 28-13. They hold a 5.5 game lead on the second place Toronto Blue Jays and 6.5 game lead on the New York Yankees.

Next, the Rays go on their shortest road trip this year with a two game set in Washington to face the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals.

Matchups:

Monday 6:05 PM: Charlie Morton vs Max Scherzer
Tuesday 6:05 PM: TBA vs Anibal Sanchez

Over the last decade Max Scherzer has been one of the best two or three pitchers in all of baseball. Sp that’s fun.

This year he has been a tick worse and running an inflated 3.95 ERA with a good 3.31 FIP and 3.29 xFIP. He’s walked more batters (8.5%) this year. He’s a flyball pitcher so when you are able to make contact it’s likely going to get airborne and allows his fair share of homers. Due to the strikeouts it’s hard to string together an inning, so we’re going to need a homer or two to get some runs on the board.

Charlie Morton looked good in his return from the Injured List. His velocity returned to 2019 levels. The curve was sharp. He threw two innings so we’re likely only going to see a progression to three innings. The bullpen is going to have to pick up the slack and will earn a day off on Wednesday.

Anibal Sanchez was a very good pitcher for many years for the Marlins and Tigers is the early 2010s. He’s been able to hold on as a back end starter for the last handful of years. This year he has been bad. In 33.1 innings he’s posted a 6.48 ERA/6.21 FIP/5.60 xFIP. He’s allowed nine homers this year so the Rays left handed bats should be looking to launch.

It is expected that the TBA will be the return of Ryan Yarbrough from the Injured List. He left his last start with tightness in his groin. It sounds like they got to it early enough and he only had to skip one start. He’ll probably be under some pitch count, but shouldn’t be limited that much.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto leads a middle of the pack offense.

Juan Soto got a late start to the season due to a possible positive COVID test that looks to have been a false positive, but since his return he’s hit .354/.453/.758 and put up a 208 wRC+ in 117 plate appearances. Unfortunately he’s been day-to-day with an injured elbow and missed the series this last weekend, so he might not play against the Rays this week.

Trea Turner has been killing the ball hitting nine homers on his way to a .365/.417/.635 line and 175 wRC+.

And that’s it! Unfortunately the offense has been almost all from Soto and Turner.

Looking for a split.

Along with the Boston Red Sox the Washington Nationals are in the conversation for most disappointing teams this season. They are 14-25 and only one game up on the Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers for worst record in the Major Leagues.

Despite the record they still have a talented team. If you have to face Scherzer it’s hard to expect a win.

I would be happy with a series split and just grind down the last 19 games of the season while keeping their lead in the division and #1 seed in the American League.