The Tampa Bay Rays took care of business against the Kansas City Royals winning three of four. The Rays have been one of the hottest teams in the American League since the trade deadline going 11-7, which ties them with the Cleveland Guardians, Seattle Mariners, and Baltimore Orioles.
The American League East seemed quite set a month ago where the Yankees had a lead of 14.5 games or more at the All-Star Break. In about six weeks that lead has become 8.0 over both the Rays and Toronto Blue Jays. The most likely outcome still is the Yankees holding on to the division lead with 42 games remaining, but another week or two of poor results could make things interesting.
The Rays, Mariners, and Blue Jays are tied for the three wild cards. Fortunately the Rays have the tie breaker against both teams. The Guardians (1.5 games back and current American League Central leaders), Orioles (2.5 games back), Minnesota Twins (2.5 games back), Chicago White Sox (3.5 games back), and the Boston Red Sox (6.0 games back) remain in contention as the season hits the final leg.
Monday 7:10 PM: Tucker Davidson vs Jeffrey Springs
Tuesday 7:10 PM: Jose Suarez vs Corey Kluber
Wednesday 7:10 PM: TBA vs Shane McClanahan
Thursday 1:10 PM: Patrick Sandoval vs Drew Rasmussen
Tucker Davidson was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in a deadline deal for Raisel Iglesias. He has made 11 appearances (10 starts) over the last three seasons putting up a 5.55 ERA/5.40 FIP/5.66 xFIP over 47.0 innings. He hasn’t gotten strikeouts (15.7% strikeout rate) but the biggest problem has been getting the ball in the zone (14.4% walk rate). Davidson throws a 93.4 mph four-seam fastball, 86.7 mph slider, and 78.9 mph curveball as his three primary offerings. He has thrown a handful of 86.0 mph changeups to right handed batters but should be disregarded at it’s current 2% usage rate.
Jose Suarez has been a solid backend starter for the Angels putting up a 4.12 ERA/4.23 FIP/4.18 xFIP over 67.2 innings. He has posted a 22.6% strikeout rate and 9.2% walk rate. In three of his last four starts he hasn’t allowed an earned run, so his results have been good as of late. Suarez throws a 92.6 mph four-seam fastball, 82.3 mph changeup, 77.8 mph curveball, and 80.3 mph slider. He throws all four pitches to batters of both sides but significantly ramps up the usage of his slider against left handed batters. Batters have feasted off his four-seam fastball with a .419 wOBA.
Patrick Sandoval quietly has had a very good season. He’s posted a 3.14 ERA/3.09 FIP/3.74 xFIP over 109.0 innings. Sandoval typically throws 4-6 high quality innings that are high quality. He has a 24.3% strikeout rate and 10.3% walk rate; that walk rate is a bit high but he’s still been effective. Sandoval throws a 92.9 mph four-seam fastball, 86.3 mph slider, and 83.0 mph changeup. He will add an occasional 79.1 mph curveball early in the count to try to get ahead and has yet to pickup a strikeout on the pitch despite a 9.5% pitch usage. His fastball has been hit hard and hitters have put up a .449 wOBA against the pitch. The slider and changeup are high whiff rate pitches.
Mike Trout has returned
Mike Trout missed the last five weeks with a rare back condition known as costovertebral dysfunction at the T5 vertebrae, but he returned to the lineup Friday. This is a big boost to a team that has hit .227/.295/.377 and put up a 89 wRC+ this season and scoring nearly a third fewer runs per game than the Rays.
When healthy, Trout has put up a typical Mike Trout season. He’s hitting .270/.367/.587 and putting up a 165 wRC+. He’s hit 24 homers in 338 plate appearances.
Shohei Ohtani has nearly matched his 2021 MVP campaign this year at the plate and on the mound. He’s hit .265/.357/.516 and put up a 142 wRC+ compared to his 150 wRC+ last season. The Rays are fortunate to miss him on the mound, but he was removed from the game due to a stomach virus so they might not have to see him at the plate either (most recent reports do have him playing tonight).
Taylor Ward (126 wRC+) has been the other significant bat in the lineup this year.
Luis Rengifo (106 wRC+) and David Fletcher (105 wRC+) have been solid contributors on the offensive side of the ball.
Jared Walsh (80 wRC+) has had a fall off from big performances the last two years and Max Stassi (76 wRC+) has been fine behind the plate.