The Tampa Bay Rays had a disappointing end to an otherwise successful trip to New York City. Winning a series is always a good outcome, but it does feel like a punch in the gut when you are that close to a sweep.
The Rays are tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for the second wild card spot and sit 1.5 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the top spot. The four teams on the outside looking in are the Minnesota Twins (1.0 game back), Baltimore Orioles (1.5 games back), Chicago White Sox (2.0 games back), and Boston Red Sox (4.0 games back).
The Kansas City Royals have lost five of their last six heading into this four game series at Tropicana Field. It’s been a disappointing season for the Royals who have looked to make some step forward this year. They are on pace to lose 97 games after only losing 88 games last year.
Thursday 7:10 PM: Max Castillo vs Luis Patiño
Friday 7:10 PM: Brady Singer vs Shane McClanahan
Saturday 4:10 PM: Kris Bubic vs Drew Rasmussen
Sunday 1:40 PM: Zach Greinke vs TBA (Ryan Yarbrough bulk spot in the rotation)
Max Castillo was one of the pieces the Royals received in the Whit Merrifield trade at the deadline. He made a handful of appearances totaling 20.2 innings for the Blue Jays. He’s a command over stuff back of the rotation starter. His most effective pitch is a changeup and his slider is fine. His fastball doesn’t have much movement and lives in the 91-94 mph range. It’s his weakest offering.
Brady Singer is a central Florida native who attended the University of Florida and Eustis High School. Singer has been the Royals most effective starter putting up a 3.29 ERA/3.61 FIP/3.34 xFIP over 104.0 innings. His strikeout rate has risen to 25.5% but the biggest improvement has come from the drop in walk rate to 6.0%. Singer works off a 93.9 mph sinker that he throws over half the time. He relies on a 85.5 mph slider as his secondary weapon of choice against all hitters. Against left handed batters he will add a 87.1 mph changeup. The changeup doesn’t get whiffs but hitters haven’t done much damage this year (.191 wOBA allowed), but looks like he’s been fortunate (.434 xwOBA allowed).
Kris Bubic has been a fine fifth starter for the Royals over the last couple of seasons. This year he has posted a 5.11 ERA/4.61 FIP/4.47 xFIP over 91.2 innings. His 19.4% strikeout rate is below average but not terrible, but the biggest problem is his 11.1% walk rate that isn’t much different than his 10.7% career rate. Bubic is your standard lower velocity left handed starter. He throws a 91.7 mph four-seam fastball, 80.5 mph changeup, and 78.9 mph curveball. He’s willing to throw all three pitches to batters from both sides of the plate at similar rates.
Zack Greinke is a central Florida native who was drafted out of Apopka High School. He returned to the Royals on a one year deal returning to where he established himself as one of the better pitches in the league and won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award. His stuff is several levels below what he was at his peak but he’s still able to get major league hitters out at a reasonable rate. He never was a big strikeout guy but this year his strikeout rate has plummeted to 13.8%. He doesn’t hurt himself with extra base runners with a 4.4% walk rate. This has led to a 4.13 ERA/4.20 FIP/4.42 xFIP. Greinke throws five pitches. He uses a 89.2 mph four-seam fastball, 72.0 mph curveballl, 86.6 mph changuep, 86.0 mph cutter, and 82.2 mph slider.
It’s time to keep rolling
This offense looks different than it did when the Rays visited Kansas City last month when the Rays surprisingly took only one of three games.
At the trade deadline the Royals traded Andrew Benintendi and Whit Merrifield, subtracting the most veteran members on the position side of the roster. The remaining Royals have hit .245/.308/.380 and put up a 94 wRC+ as a team and have won 8 of 17 since the trade deadline. They don’t hit for a lot of power (third fewest homers) but they are aggressive with their runners (sixth most stolen bases).
MJ Melendez (106 wRC+) and Michael A Taylor (100 wRC+) have been the only other remaining hitters who have been at least league average with the plate.
Bobby Witt Jr. making the Opening Day roster was one of the biggest surprises coming out of Spring Training. It’s taken time to transition to the major leagues. He’s put up a .251/.293/.428 line and 101 wRC+. It’s a fine rookie season but the expectations were huge and has not lived up to them at this point.
The Rays are promoting Luis Patiño for at least one start tonight at a time when length would be welcome after the Yankees sapped the bullpen of innings this week. His performance may dictate what comes next, but there’s an opportunity for a six-man rotation for at least this run of 13 games in a row. Tampa Bay’s next off-day is not until next month.
How many games will the Rays win against the Royals?
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