The Tampa Bay Rays had tarps on the lockers and champagne ready, but an eighth inning rally by the Cleveland Guardians put the party on ice and the champagne back in the fridge.
With six games left to play, the Rays have not officially clinched the playoffs, even though their FanGraphs odds are now at 100%. The only teams other than the Rays that have not had their fate decided are the Seattle Mariners (+0.5 games above the Rays), and the Baltimore Orioles (-5.0 games behind the Rays).
There are only two slots remaining among these three teams. At this stage it would take a worse-than-the-2013-Red-Sox level collapse by the Rays or Mariners to lose the playoffs, so let’s just stay positive here.
Friday, 8:10 PM - RHP Drew Rasmussen vs LHP Framber Valdez
Saturday, 7:20 PM - LHP Shane McClanahan vs RHP Christian Javier
Sunday 2:10 PM - RHP Corey Kluber vs RHP Luis Garcia
Framber Valdez has thrown 25 quality starts this season and offers Rays fans a worthy opponent in looking to secure the post season, at least for those who still have flashbacks to facing him in the 2020 ALDS (what just me? moving on...). It’s shocking to see his 2.69 ERA is not the best mark on the team, but it’s only barely so, and Valdez is a true starter in terms of workload. He also has a 3.12 FIP/3.02 xFIP, with a 23.3 K% and 8.1 BB%. His sinker/curveball combo account for 79% of his pitches thrown, with a slider and change sprinkled in. His most recent outing saw seven runs (four earned) and 12 base runners allowed in less than six innings, so he is both formidable and fallible.
Cristian Javier is the one pitcher the Astros are willing to aggressively protecting against the third time through the order. He’s improved his season to a 2.65 ERA/3.22 FIP/3.53 xFIP over 142.2 innings in a usage that looks similar to the Rays use of Drew Rasmussen or Jeffrey Springs. He’s posted a 33.1% strikeout rate and 8.8% walk rate. Javier throws a 93.8 mph four-seam slider and 79.8 mph slider as his two primary pitches. He will exchange some sliders for a 76.5 mph curveball against left handed batters. His slider is far and away his best swing and miss pitch.
Luis Garcia has had a solid season but he’s been the worst starter in the Astros rotation (which tells you everything you need to know about the strength of the Astros rotation). He’s also improved his season stats since the Rays saw the Astros, now at a 3.81 ERA/4.00 FIP/3.84 xFIP over 151.1 innings. He’s posted a 24.6% strikeout rate and 7.4% walk rate. Garcia throws a 94.0 mph four-seam fastball and 85.3 mph cutter as his two primary pitches. Against right handed hitters he adds a 79.7 mph slider. Against left handed batters he will add a 84.8 mph changeup and 77.2 mph curveball. His cutter is his go to putaway pitch and all pitches except for the four-seam fastball are good at getting whiffs. His arsenal is diverse.
This Offense Clicks
Houston has the third best offense in the AL (112 wRC+), bested only by Toronto and Aaron Judge’s team. By now, you know who to be afraid of here.
DH Yordan Alvarez (184 wRC+) and 2B Jose Altuve (162 wRC+) are world beaters, while 3B Alex Bregman (138 wRC+) and RF Kyle Tucker (132 wRC+) are monsters as well.
These four are joined by SS Jeremy Pena (96 wRC+) — curiously Dusty Baker’s no. 2 hitter — with having 20 HR apiece this season. Tucker has already secured his 20/20 season with 25 SB’s, while Altuve has this final week to find two more for his own.
As a reminder, the Astros added Try Mancini to LF in August. He only has an 88 wRC+ in the second half. For the most part, though, this is a very potent offense.
How many games will the Rays win in Houston?
This poll is closed