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Rays Series Preview: Rays looking to keep their momentum going in Philadelphia

Rays are on the road again.

Phiiladelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays enjoyed a 6-1 homestand that culminated in a series victory over the Chicago White Sox. The Rays head to Philadelphia for a two-game set.

The Rays have played very well and still hold a sizable lead in the division with 37 games remaining. However, the red hot New York Yankees are 4.0 games back and are on a 10 game winning streak. The Boston Red Sox trail by 6.5 games, but are holding onto the second American League Wild Card by a slim margin. The Toronto Blue Jays have dropped three of their last ten and sit 11.0 games back in the division with a wild card chance dwindling away. The Baltimore Orioles are on an 18 game losing streak and sit 31.5 games behind the Rays.

Matchups:

Tuesday 7:05 PM: Drew Rasmussen vs Ranger Suarez
Wednesday 7:05 PM: Shane McClanahan vs Zack Wheeler

Ranger Suarez has had a very good year as he’s transitioned from a multi-inning reliever to the starting rotation. This will be his fifth start of the season as he’s built up from 3.0 to 4.2 innings so far. In 55.0 innings he’s put up a 1.47 ERA/3.48 FIP/3.67 xFIP. He posted a solid 24.0% strikeout rate with an above-average 10.9% walk rate. Right-handed batters have done a bulk of the damage putting up a .279 wOBA while lefties have really struggled putting up a .146 wOBA. Both are still very good results. Suarez’s primary pitch is a 93.1 mph sinker which he throws just under 50% of the time. He splits the rest of usage between a 94.0 four-seam fastball and 84.6 mph changeup. The changuep is his go-to swing and miss pitch. He will very rarely throw an 84.0 slider.

Zack Wheeler has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. In 168.2 innings he’s put up a 2.77 ERA/2.53 FIP/2.82 xFIP. He’s struck out 29.1% of the batters he’s faced while only walking 5.4%. The Rays were able to put up three runs in 7.0 innings against Wheeler in May. Wheeler uses his high octane 97.2 mph four-seam fastball as his primary weapon. His go-to breaking ball is a 91.5 mph slider. Against right-handers he will add a 96.7 mph sinker. He throws an 81.4 mph curveball as his go-to swing and miss pitch.

The Philadelphia bullpen has really struggled this year putting up a 4.58 ERA/4.69 FIP/4.24 xFIP. Their biggest problem is a 10.1% walk rate that gives opposing offenses a chance for big innings. None of the options they have thrown in the late innings have gotten the job done. Even their deadline acquisition of Ian Kennedy has an ERA over 5.00 while picking up four saves.

The Phillies' top-heavy offense has been lackluster.

Overall the team is hitting .238/.317/.403 and putting up a 93 wRC+. Despite the lower wRC+ they have managed 4.58 runs per game which puts them in the middle of the league.

There are some hitters you have to be careful with. The biggest example is Bryce Harper. He’s put up a .291/.410/.561 line and 155 wRC+. His 23 homers are second-most on the team and one of three batters to hit more than 20.

Rhys Hoskins (128 wRC+) is that big masher in the middle of the lineup that has the team lead with 26 homers.

JT Realmuto (113 wRC+) re-signed with the Phillies this past winter and has been very good.

Jean Segura (114 wRC+) has done a good job in his transition to third base.

Andrew McCutchen (106 wRC+) has 21 homers and has been a solid run producer.

Odubel Herrera (100 wRC+) and Brad Miller (95 wRC+) have helped.

The bottom of the lineup has been weak. Didi Gregorius (72 wRC+) and Alec Bohm (76 wRC+) have been the biggest contributors to this being a below-average offensive unit.

The Phillies defense has one of the biggest problems for them this year. They’ve put up -40 DRS while their -4.7 UZR doesn’t see it as big of a problem.

The Phillies return from a tough rough trip out west.

The road trip started out with a disaster. They were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they were able to recover and win two out of three from the free-falling San Diego Padres. The Atlanta Braves went on a nine-game winning streak to put the Phillies 4.5 games behind in the American League East. The Phillies still have a shot, but time is running out.

The Rays have taken care of business over the last few weeks. They still have a sizable lead over the Yankees despite their own run. It could be a fun final 37 games with the final series in New York could have the division in play. However, the Rays can only control what is front of them and they need to continue to pick up series wins to get where they desire.