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Series Preview: Rays vs. Orioles

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Baltimore Orioles v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays won a series victory against the Atlanta Braves to start the second half. The Rays have won eight of their last ten.

The Rays sit 0.5 game behind the Boston Red Sox and more importantly are tied in the loss column. The Toronto Blue Jays are 6.0 games behind and the New York Yankees sit 7.0 games back. The Baltimore Orioles are barely visible in the rear view mirror as they sit 25.0 games behind.

The Rays head back to Tropicana Field for a quick three game homestand against the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays are 6-0 against Baltimore this season.

Matchups:

Monday 7:10 PM: Spenser Watkins vs Ryan Yarbrough
Tuesday 7:10 PM: John Means vs Shane McClanahan
Wednesday 12:10 PM: TBA vs Michael Wacha

Spenser Watkins made his major league debut earlier this year. In three appearances he’s thrown 10.1 innings with a 1.74 ERA/5.01 FIP/5.47 xFIP. He’s struck out six (14.6%) and walked six (14.6%). In the minor leagues he typically has posted strikeouts in the 17-20% range and walks in the 7-9% range. His primary pitch is a 89.9 mph four-seam fastball he throws just over 50% of the time. He compliments it with a 85.4 mph cutter nearly 30% of the time and a 77.8 mph curveball most of the remaining 20% of the time. He has thrown two 82.7 mph changeups (1%). The curveball is the one pitch that he has gotten some whiffs on.

John Means has rebounded off a lackluster 2020 with a very good 2021 campaign. He’s thrown 71.0 innings with a 2.28 ERA/4.20 FIP/4.02 xFIP. His strikeout rate has increased to 25.7% while maintaining his 4.9% walk rate. When he’s gotten in trouble it’s because balls leave the ballpark. He’s posted a 14.8% HR/FB rate, but the biggest compounding factor is he’s posted a very low 30.4% groundball rate. His primary pitch is a 92.8 mph four-seam fastball he throws just over 50% of the time. He mixes in a 83.8 mph changeup that he has thrown nearly 30% of the time while not throwing it very rarely against left handed batters. His third pitch is a 77.7 mph curveball and will sprinkle in a 86.1 mph slider.

It hasn’t been announced who will start in the third game, but it likely will be Keegan Akin who started their first game after the All-Star break. Akin has really struggled this year with a 8.19 ERA/4.93 FIP/4.82 xFIP over 48.1 innings.

Baltimore’s bullpen has been tasked with picking up a lot of innings. Their 380.2 innings trail only the San Diego Padres and Rays, but those two teams have benefitted from effective relief pitching whereas the Orioles have not been so fortunate. Their 4.94 ERA is fifth worst in the majors and even their 4.37 FIP and 4.39 xFIP come in tenth and eleventh worst in the league respectively. Paul Fry, Tanner Scott, and Cole Sulser have done solid work in the back end.

Local star almost pulls off upset in the Home Run Derby.

Trey Mancini, from Winter Haven High School, attempted to pull the upset in the final Home Run Derby round against Plant High School star Pete Alonso. It was a great performance from a guy who a year ago was undergoing treatment for colon cancer.

The Orioles have hit .237/.303/.391 and put up a 92 wRC+. Their 4.12 runs per game ranks eighth lowest in the majors.

Cedric Mullins II has had the biggest breakout on the offensive side hitting .313/.379/.538 and 150 wRC+. He’s tied for the team lead with 16 homers.

Mancini is hitting .255/.330/.457 and putting up a 116 wRC+. He’s added 16 homers.

Those have been the only real pluses offensively but Austin Hays (102 wRC+), Ryan Mountcastle (100 wRC+), and Freddy Galvis (97 wRC+) have been solid.

Maikel Franco (75 wRC+) and Anthony Santander (79 wRC+) have struggled.

The defensive metrics for the Orioles are all over the place. By DRS they’ve been worth -23 runs and are in the bottom five. By UZR their +4.3 runs puts them just outside the top ten. Austin Hays and Ryan McKenn have been very good in LF (+11 DRS, +4.1 UZR combined). Maikel Franco at -8 DRS and +1.4 UZR is where the biggest singular disagreement lies.

The Rays need to continue to take care of business.

This year the Rays have handled the Orioles well going 6-0, but it’s very unlikely they’ll go 19-0. They still need to create any distance they can while playing an over matched team. Keep winning series and everything will fall into place.