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Series Preview: Rays v. Phillies

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays winning streak ended at 11, but they won two out three versus the Kansas City Royals to continue to win series.

The Rays are 32-20 and have the second best record in the majors, one game behind the San Diego Padres. (It’s almost like the big Blake Snell trade worked out for both teams!) The Rays have a 0.5 game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

This weekend the Rays host the Philadelphia Phillies for a two game set.

Matchups:

Saturday 1:10 PM: Zack Wheeler vs Ryan Yarbrough
Sunday 1:10 PM: Zach Eflin vs Josh Fleming

The Rays are expected to activate Luis Patino from the Injured List this weekend and could pick up bulk innings during the series.

Zack Wheeler has been one of the best starters in the league this year. He’s posted a 2.38 ERA/2.53 FIP/2.91 xFIP over 68.0 innings. His 29.7% strikeout rate is over 5% higher than any single season he’s had while his 5.3% walk rate would also set a new career best mark. He has thrown at least 7.0 innings in all but one of his recent starts. His primary pitch is a 97.2 mph four-seam fastball that he throws nearly half the time. He also will throw a 96.8 mph sinker and 91.2 mph slider as his secondary pitches of choice. He will rarely throw a 81.0 mph curveball and 90.0 mph changeup that add up to about 10% of his pitches.

Zach Eflin has taken a big step forward over the last two seasons. In 2021 he has posted a 3.84 ERA/2.89 FIP/3.19 xFIP. His strikeout rate is up to 24.4% while his walk rate is down to a minuscule 2.7%. In all ten of his starts he has gone at least 6.0 innings. He throws two fastballs that combine for about 50% of his pitch usage. His primary fastball is a 92.3 mph sinker and will occasionally go up in the zone with a 93.1 mph four-seam fastball. His 87.5 mph slider is his secondary of choice and throws it more often to left handers than he does right handers. He will occasionally mix in a 85.1 mph changeup and 77.4 mph curveball to batters of both hands.

The Phillies offense is depleted by injuries

As a team the Phillies offense hasn’t been good. They are hitting .234/.309/.377 and putting up a 90 wRC+. That is WITH t Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, and Didi Gregorius. But all three are on the injured list, which leaves even less offensive punch.

Update: Realmuto was reinstated from the IL this morning, and will be on the active roster for this series.

The injuries have left Rhys Hoskins as the main regular offensive threat remaining. He is hitting .266/.341/.505 and putting up a 132 wRC+. He leads the team with 11 homers.

Brad Miller (yes, that Brad Miller) has stepped up in a part time role. He has an impressive .305/.365/.505 line and is putting up a 140 wRC+.

Jean Segura (125 wRC+), Odubel Herrera (106 wRC+), Andrew McCutchen (97 wRC+), and Nick Maton (95 wRC+) have been the better remaining contributors on offense.

Alec Bohm has struggled coming off a season where he ended up in the top three for National League Rookie of the Year. He is hitting .213/.249/.317 and putting up a 55 wRC+.

The Rays look to continue their winning ways in a rematch of the 2008 World Series.

The Rays will host the victors of the 2008 World Series matchup this weekend, but hope that the outcome will be different in this much lower stakes series. At the very least we know the games won’t be played in a downpour.

Hope everybody enjoyed their rare Friday offday, and have a safe Memorial Day weekend.