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Series Preview: Joe Maddon’s second trip home

The Rays will avoid Shohei Ohtani’s pitching this series.

MLB: JUN 22 Giants at Angels Photo by John McCoy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays managed to steal a series victory over the Boston Red Sox on a wild pitch walkoff. In doing so the Rays took back the lead in the American League East.

The Rays are 0.5 game ahead of the Red Sox. The New York Yankees have closed within 4.0 and are set to take on Boston this weekend, while the Toronto Blue Jays sit 5.5 games back in the division race. Baltimore continues to fade fast and find themselves 21.5 games behind.

This weekend the Rays will welcome the Los Angeles Angels and their former manager Joe Maddon to Tropicana Field. This will be the second time the Rays have hosted a Maddon led club since his departure.

Matchups:

Friday 7:10 PM: Griffin Canning vs Andrew Kittredge
Saturday 4:10 PM: Alex Cobb vs Shane McClanahan
Sunday 1:10 PM: Patrick Sandoval vs Ryan Yarbrough

Note: Kevin Cash announced the Rays will go with an opener on Friday night. Andrew Kittredge will open while Josh Fleming will get bulk duty.

Griffin Canning has had a rough start to the year posting a 5.07 ERA/5.24 FIP/4.55 xFIP. His 24.4% strikeout rate is in line with his career rate while his 10.1% walk rate is a tick worse than his career rate. The biggest problem has come in homers. His HR/FB rate has spiked to 17.9% while also posting a very high 43.5% flyball rate. Canning throws a 93.6 mph four-seam fastball as his primary pitch coming in just over 40% of the time. His 88.2 mph slider is used just under 30% of the time while his 89.2 mph changeup comes in just over 20% of the time. He is willing to throw his changeup against right handed batters. His final 10% of pitches comes in the form a 81.9 mph curveball that is used as a get me over pitch early in the count to steal a strike.

Alex Cobb will face his former team and Shane McClanahan just so happens to be the player the Rays took with their compensation pick when Cobb signed with the Baltimore Orioles. Cobb’s peripherals look far more impressive than his ERA. He has put up a 4.41 ERA/2.40 FIP/2.59 xFIP over 49.0 innings. His strikeout has surged to 28.8% and is above 20% for the first time since before he had Tommy John surgery in 2014. He avoids walks at an above average 7.7% rate. He’s posting the highest groundball rate (60.6%) of his career, and has the lowest HR/9 (0.37) of his career. Cobb throws a 92.4 mph sinker and 87.4 mph split finger as his two primary pitches. He throws each roughly 40% of the time. He will sprinkle in a 82.3 mph curveball and 93.0 mph four-seam fastball. The split finger is the pitch he goes to when he needs a swing and a miss.

Patrick Sandoval has been the most effective starter not named Shohei Ohtani. He has put up a 3.69 ERA/4.74 FIP/3.72 xFIP. His 24.7% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate are near career norms. The biggest problem has been homers with a 24.1% HR/FB rate. Sandoval’s most used pitch is a 84.6 mph changeup that he will throw around one-third of the time. He will add a 93.6 mph four-seam fastball just over 25% and a 93.6 mph sinker just over 15% of the time. He will split his breaking balls evenly between a 86.3 mph slider and 78.3 mph curveball.

The bullpen has been a major weakness for the Angels this year. They have combined for a 4.85 ERA/4.50 FIP/4.35 xFIP. Jose Suarez, a lefty, has been their most effective reliever. Steve Cishek and Raisel Iglesias have been fine, but the bullpen gets very thin on usable arms very quickly.

Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Without Mike Trout their offense remains top heavy.

The Angels might have one of the most top heavy lineups in the game. Even without Mike Trout’s 193 wRC+ bat they still possess big bats in Shohei Ohtani (162 wRC+) and Jared Walsh (151 wRC+). Max Stassi (166 wRC+) has suffered multiple injuries this year but has been a key contributor.

Justin Upton (125 wRC+) and Taylor Ward (109 wRC+) have been above average contributors, but it gets very thin quickly. Anthony Rendon (81 wRC+) has been very disappointing. David Fletcher (84 wRC+) has lost all power (.049 ISO). Jose Iglesias (84 wRC+) hits fine for a defensive first shortstop.

The Angels have been one of the worst defensive teams in the game. They have put up a -23 DRS and -15.0 UZR that both rank in the bottom five in the majors. For a comparison they are 90 runs behind the Rays in DRS and 32.4 runs by UZR.

Los Angeles Angels v Seattle Mariners
Ohtani and Trout
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Tropicana Field was loud against the Red Sox.

Maybe it was having the crowd being larger but still not open to 100% capacity, but Rays fans really showed up to support Wander Franco in his first three games. Even on TV you could feel the energy coming from the crowd.

The Rays look to continue to rebound after suffering an eight game losing streak.