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Series Preview: Rays vs. Blue Jays

MLB: SEP 20 Blue Jays at Phillies Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays head on the road after a lackluster home stand. The Rays start with five games against the Toronto Blue Jays before taking on the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds for three game sets. This will be a key stretch to see where the teams will stand in the American League East and Wild Card races.

The New York Yankees hold a substantial lead in the American League East leading the Red Sox by 13.0 games, Blue Jays by 13.5 games, Rays by 15.0 games, and the Baltimore Orioles by 21.5 games.


Thursday 7:07 PM: Matt Wisler vs Yusei Kikuchi
Friday 3:07 PM: Corey Kluber vs Jose Berrios
Saturday 12:07 PM: Shane McClanahan vs Kevin Gausman
Saturday 6:07 PM: TBA vs TBA
Sunday 1:37 PM: Shane Baz vs Ross Stripling

Yusei Kikuchi signed a 3 year $36MM contract this past winter and he hasn’t gotten off to a good start. In 56.2 innings he’s posted a 5.08 ERA/5.85 FIP/4.45 xFIP. His 25.5% strikeout rate is good, but his problem has been a 13.5% walk rate and 2.06 HR/9. His walk rate has never been a strong suit but has generally hovered around 9%. His 21.3% HR/FB rate is high but not significantly higher than his 19.0% career rate. The biggest problem is he’s allowed more flyballs (39.9% flyball rate versus 25-30% in his career). Kikuchi is primarily a two pitch pitcher who throws a 94.8 mph four-seam fastball and 86.9 mph slider. Against right handed batters he will add a 87.1 mph changeup. The slider is the pitch that has been hit for the most damage this year with a .640 slugging allowed.

Jose Berrios was the big piece the Blue Jays acquired at last year’s trade deadline. Last year he was good, but this year his numbers aren’t much different from Kikuchi. He’s posted a 5.86 ERA/5.27 FIP/4.37 xFIP over 78.1 innings. His strikeout rate has plummeted from the mid 20s to 18.8%. He rarely walks batters with a 5.9% walk rate. Much like Kikuchi his flyball rate is uup which has led to an elevated 1.95 HR/9. Berrios works off a 93.8 mph four-seam fastball, 82.8 mph cureball, and 93.5 mph sinker that he divides equitably. He will add a 84.7 mph changeup mostly to left handed batters but is willing to throw it to a right handed batter at a low frequency. Most of the damage has been done on the four-seam fastball.

Kevin Gausman has been one of the best pitchers over the last couple of seasons and this year is no exception. He’s posted a 2.93 ERA/1.70 FIP/2.81 xFIP over 86.0 innings. Gasuman’s strikeout rate has fallen to 26.9% but is still good. His walk rate has fallen to 4.2%. Unlike Kikuchi and Berrios he has kept the ball in the yard allowing two homeruns this season. Gausman is primarily a two-pitch pitcher working off a 94.8 mph four-seam fastball and 84.9 mph split finger changeup. Against right handed batter he will add a 84.0 mph slider.

In game two on Saturday it’s not known who will start for either team. For the Rays it’s likely either Luis Patino or Drew Rasmussen who are scheduled to come back from the Injured List at some point during the road trip.

Ross Stripling has been a solid starter over his major league career but this year he’s been great. He’s posted a 3.12 ERA/3.06 FIP/3.61 xFIP over 57.2 innings. He doesn’t strike out a lot of batters with a 19.8% strikeout rate but he does limit walks with a 5.2% walk rate. In the past he’s had a problem with homers but this year he’s done well allowing a 0.62 HR/9 rate. Stripling throws a 91.9 mph four-seam fastball, 82.5 mph changeup, and 86.8 mph slider as a regular part of his pitching mix. He will sneak in a few 76.0 mph curveballs at low frequency. Hitters have done the most damage off his four-seam fastball.

The Blue Jays offense has led the team.

The Blue Jays can really hit. They’ve put up a .257/.325/.433 line and 113 wRC+. They hit for power (99 homers and .177 ISO) while having middling walk and strikeout rates. They are reluctant to be active on the bases.

Alejandro Kirk has been the breakout star for the Blue Jays offense. He’s put up a .320/.413/.519 line and 165 wRC+ over 242 plate appearances. He’s hit 10 homers.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (139 wRC+) and George Springer (131 wRC+) have been great. Guerrero Jr leads the team with 18 and Springers comes in 2nd with 15.

Matt Chapman (102 wRC+), Bo Bichette (101 wRC+), Teoscar Hernandez (105 wRC+), and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (112 wRC+) have provided solid offensive support.

Cavan Biggio (118 wRC+) struggled early in the season and was demoted to AAA. Since returning he’s been very good.