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Series Preview: Rays face White Sox with Pride

These hats will be available via special ticket offer this weekend.

The Tampa Bay Rays didn’t enjoy going back to Arlington, the home of their defeat in the 2020 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It could’ve ended up worse, but the Rays were able to salvage a four game split after dropping the first two games.

The Rays sit third in the American League East. The New York Yankees hold a 5.5 game lead over the red hot Toronto Blue Jays who have won eight in a row. The Rays sit 6.0 games back. The Boston Red Sox are 12.0 games behind while the Baltimore Orioles sit 15.0 games back.

The Chicago White Sox came into the season with a deep postseason run expected, but have gotten off to a weak start. They sit third in the American League Central 5.0 games behind the Minnesota Twins. They are 23-26 after being swept by the Blue Jays.

Schedule

Friday 7:10 PM: Vince Velasquez vs Shane McClanahan
Saturday 4:10 PM: Dylan Cease vs Drew Rasmussen
Sunday 1:40 PM: Lucas Giolito vs Ryan Yarbrough

Vince Velasquez continues to frustrate evaluators who see a pitcher with stuff but a lack of ability to throw strikes when needed. He also has a problem with flyballs that have a tendency to leave the yard. This year he’s put up a 5.30 ERA/5.11 FIP/4.50 xFIP over 35.2 innings. His strikeout rate has dropped nearly five percent to a career low of 21.0%. It has come with fewer walks but his 8.9% walk rate is still below average. His four-seam fastball has lost a couple ticks from earlier in his career, but he’s still able to put up a 93.4 mph average. He throws a 84.6 mph slider, 81.8 mph curveball, and 88.2 mph changeup as his secondary options. He rarely throws the slider to left handed batters or the changeup to right handed batters.

Dylan Cease has built upon a breakout 2021 season. He’s put up a 3.69 ERA/2.86 FIP/3.02 xFIP over 53.2 innings. He’s been able to turn his octane stuff into strikeouts ramping up his strikeout rate to 33.3%. He will walk more than his fair share with a 10.1% walk rate. Cease does most of his work off a 96.5 mph four-seam fastball and 86.0 mph slider. He will mix in a few 79.8 mph curveballs and 77.9 mph changeups, however he rarely throws either to a right handed batter.

Lucas Giolito has established himself as one of the better starting pitchers over the last four seasons following a rough first full season in the majors. This year he’s put up a 3.61 ERA/4.02 FIP/2.93 xFIP. When batters have gotten the ball in the air this season he’s allowed a 19.5% HR/FB rate. That is high and it doesn’t help when you have a rather low 33.0% groundball rate. He limits contact with a 33.3% strikeout rate, but will walk batters at a 9.6% rate.

Giolito was known for elite velocity as a minor leaguer, but never really showed that in the majors. His velocity is down to 93.1 mph on his four-seam fastball, but only down about one mph from his peak average. His secondary weapons of choice are a 81.7 mph changeup and 84.7 mph slider. He will throw the changeup equally to batters from both sides of the plate, but he will limit sliders to left handed batters.

The offense has been where the White Sox have really struggled.

The White Sox have hit .236/.291/.362 and put up a 91 wRC+ this season. They haven’t hit for power or gotten on base. While not hitting they also have been one of the worst defenses in the game. Not a great combination.

Tim Anderson (163 wRC+), Andrew Vaughn (141 wRC+), Jose Abreu (126 wRC+), and Luis Robert (119 wRC+) have hit well. Anderson has hit five homers while Vaughn, Abreu, and Robert have hit six each tying for the team lead.

The problem has mostly come from the bottom of the lineup. Yoan Moncada (18 wRC+), Leury Garcia (28 wRC+), Yasmani Grandal (49 wRC+), and Josh Harrison (55 wRC+) have struggled the most. All except Moncada, due to injury, have more than 100 plate appearances.

The team has offensive talent, but they have not performed up to expectations.

Special Occasions this weekend

There are two significant events being celebrated during this series.

  • Friday, June 3 will be recognized as Lou Gehrig Day: In honor of the second annual Lou Gehrig Day, as recognized by Major League Baseball on June 2, Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed and Rob Ray will recite Gehrig’s iconic “Luckiest Man” farewell speech on the field prior to first pitch. Ray, a 55-year-old father of two, was diagnosed with ALS in April of 2018, two years into his career as a registered nurse. The Rays will also wear specially made Lou Gehrig Day uniform patches on June 3. The Ceremonial First Pitch will be thrown by Robert Pope from the ALS Association of Florida. Pope, a father of two daughters, was offi cially diagnosed with ALS in 2020 after he started showing symptoms in 2012 and was misdiagnosed in 2016.
  • Saturday, June 4 will be recognized as Pride Night: As part of celebrations in honor of Pride Night, presented by Chevrolet, the Rays will recognize Metro Inclusive Health with a check presentation in the amount of $20,000. Metro Inclusive Health is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that makes a significant impact across the Tampa Bay area by providing over 100 quality health and wellness services that are inclusive, relevant and supportive of the diverse people in the Tampa Bay community. Fans can also receive a Rays Pride Hat, designed by local artist Chad Mize, as part of a $30 ticket package that includes a seat in the Lower Level. The deadline to purchase is Friday, June 3 at 11:59 p.m. For more information, visit RaysBaseball.com/Pride and use the code PRIDE1 to access the ticket offer. There will also be a Mini Pride Flag giveaway.

Additionally, Sunday will kick off Reading with the Rays. The Suncoast Credit Union sponsored event is going into its 15th season of “Read Your Way to the Ballpark,” an incentive-based reading program that encourages Pre-K to 12th grade students to avoid summer learning loss by reading for 24 hours during the summer months. For more information about the program, visit RaysBaseball.com/Reading.