The Tampa Bay Rays didn’t have the weekend they hoped in Boston, but Sunday’s win left them in a good spot as they end the month of August against their cross state rivals the Miami Marlins.
The division race is getting a little closer as they trail the New York Yankees by 7.0 games with 35 games to go. It’s still an uphill battle, but the good news is they possess the top wild card spot.
The Rays hold a 0.5 game lead over the Seattle Mariners, 1.0 game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays, 3.0 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles, and 4.0 game lead over the Minnesota Twins. The Rays hold the head-to-head tie breaker against everybody except the Twins. The Chicago White Sox trail by 7.5 games and the Boston Red Sox trail by 9.0 games as they have fallen off the pace and need a great finish to get back in the race.
FanGraphs projections view the teams currently holding the wild card spots to hang on to them. The playoff odds are 94.0% for the Mariners, 92.6% for the Blue Jays, and 84.9% for the Rays. The lead is enough for the Rays despite having the most difficult remaining schedule in the American League with a .537 strength of schedule.
Tuesday 6:40 PM: Shane McClanahan vs Jesus Luzardo
Wednesday 6:40 PM: Drew Rasmussen vs TBA
Jesus Luzardo was traded to the Marlins as part of the Sterling Marte trade with the Oakland Athletics last year. After a disappointing 2021 season he has been good when healthy. He’s only managed 59.1 innings but he’s posted a 3.34 ERA/3.06 FIP/3.25 xFIP. His strikeout rate has seen a rise to 29.4% and his 9.8% walk rate is marginally better than it was last season. Luzardo works off a 96.7 mph four-seam fastball and throws a 83.8 mph curveball and 86.9 mph changeup as his breaking ball and offspeed pitches of choice. The changeup is his best go to putaway pitch but his curveball is no slouch either.
The Marlins offense has left a lot to be desired.
The Marlins 465 runs scored this year is the fourth lowest total in the majors coming in 76 runs behind the Rays. They have hit .230/.295/.364 and put up a 88 wRC+ and have 55 wins, tied for the 7th fewest in the majors.
The Marlins offense has really missed it’s spark plug Jazz Chisholm Jr. He was hitting .254/.325/.535 and putting up a 135 wRC+ when he went on the Injured List at the end of July with a stress fracture in his back similar to one suffered by Brandon Lowe earlier this year. His 14 homers leads the team now that former Rays DH Jesus Aguillar (15 homers) has been designated for assignment.
Garret Cooper (112 wRC+), Brian Anderson (106 wRC+), Jon Berti (105 wRC+), Jorge Soler (97 wRC+), and former Rays infielder Joey Wendle (85 wRC+) have been fine but there hasn’t been a lot of support.
Jacob Stallings (68 wRC+) and former Ray Avisail Garcia (67 wRC+) have struggled after being big off season additions to an offense looking to take a step forward. Former Rays farmhand Jesus Sanchez (86 wRC+) got off to a quick start but has fallen off, but has hit 12 homers in 325 plate appearances.
The Marlins 465 runs scored this year is the fourth lowest total in the majors coming in 76 runs behind the Rays. They have hit .230/.295/.364 and put up a 88 wRC+, making this series the last chance for a breather.
After an off-day on Thursday, the Rays are home for six games against the Yankees and Red Sox before an eight game road trip, three in New York, five in Toronto.