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Series #18: Athletics vs Rays - Another Test for the Offense

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MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays’ Current Record:

25-26, third place in the American League East. They have won six of their last ten games, most recently winning a series at home versus the Orioles.

Possible Lineup:

1B - Brad Miller

DH - C.J. Cron

2B - Joey Wendle

C - Wilson Ramos

3B - Matt Duffy

CF - Mallex Smith

SS - Daniel Robertson

RF - Carlos Gomez

LF - Rob Refsnyder

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Chris Archer

Blake Snell

Nate Eovaldi

Bullpen Game

Recent Bullpen Usage:

After each tossing more than fifty pitches in their Sunday afternoon affair, relievers Vidal Nuno and Austin Pruitt are likely out for the opening game of the series. Despite heavy reliance on the bullpen, the Rays have done a good job of spacing out appearances for relievers, and currently have four pitches on the roster with at least three days rest.

Hottest Hitter(s):

Former top prospect and recent call up Christian Arroyo has been incredible at the plate in a week’s worth of games, batting .412/.545/.588 in seventeen at bats this season, scoring three runs and driving in three with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. Wilson Ramos and Rob Refsnyder have each reached base in more than half of their at bats this last week, the latter possessing a .611 OBP in five games played.

Coldest Hitter(s):

Although they had strong starts to the year, former A’s minor leaguers Joey Wendle and Daniel Robertson have each cooled off in the month of May. Wendle only has two extra base hits in his last twenty games, while only reaching base in a little more than a quarter of his at bats, and Robertson is struggling to stay above the Mendoza line for the month.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

The Rays’ starting pitching isn’t as sharp as it has traditionally been the last couple seasons, resulting in the Rays experimenting with regular bullpen games to try and get more optimized results. However, one starting pitcher who has been phenomenal all season is Blake Snell, who has a WHIP of 1.02 and has sixty nine strikeouts in sixty four innings pitched. Chris Archer is also starting to take control of his home run problem and has looked much stronger than he did at the season’s start. Lefty Jonny Venters has been ice out of the bullpen, and may potentially get the start on Thursday.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

Jacob Faria was struggling to miss bats and go deep into games before going down with an oblique injury last week. Despite getting the lion’s share of starts for Rays’ bullpen games recently, and despite racking up eighteen strikeouts in thirteen innings pitched, Sergio Romo has struggled with the long ball (as well as subpar defense behind him) resulting in a bloated ERA in May.

Key Injuries:

As mentioned, starting pitcher Jacob Faria is currently on the DL with an oblique injury, but the rest of the Rays have, by and large, stayed healthy as a whole. Nate Eovaldi has missed the entire season to date with elbow problems, but he will be making his first start since 2016 on Wednesday. The notable exception to the Rays’ overall good health is tar outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is on the 60-day DL with a thumb issue.

* * *

The A’s wrap up their tough May schedule with a four game series against the Rays at Rickey Henderson Field. The team performed better than expected during the harrowing stretch of baseball, but not for the reasons one would expect. Big steps forward from the likes of Daniel Mengden, Trevor Cahill, Frankie Montas, and more amongst the pitching staff helped keep opponent’s bats at bay while the offensive collectively struggled. While the team did run into a lot of strong pitching, hitting was supposed to be the strength of the team, and June will be a pivotal month to determine whether the A’s sophomoric bats can get back on track.

The matchup against the Rays assures the A’s that they will continue to go up against very strong pitching for the next four games. The Rays weren’t planning on competing this year, spending the offseason letting players walk and take a similar path as other “tanking” teams that permeate the leagues. However, thanks to a talented and innovative pitching staff, as well as some unexpected offensive contributions from various minor league castoffs, the Rays have hung tough and find themselves in third place, albeit far behind the Yankees and Red Sox in the standings. This series will start off a nine-game, ten day road trip.

Game #54: Monday, May 28th, 1:05 - NBCSCA, Fox Sports Sun

Trevor Cahill vs Chris Archer

Trevor Cahill is evidently taking on the role of this season’s shockingly exceptional veteran arm that anchors an otherwise shaky rotation. When on the mound, the A’s have always been in a position to win the game. He is going up against Tampa Bay’s ace in Archer, who has been inconsistent this year. However, when Archer is on, he is as unhittable as anyone in the game. With a strikeout heavy lineup like Oakland’s, Archer will be a tough matchup.

Game #55: Tuesday, May 29th, 7:05 - NBCSCA, Fox Sports Sun

Daniel Gossett vs Blake Snell

Gossett was tough to watch in his first go in the rotation this year, walking everyone despite being labeled as a control pitcher and giving up way too much hard contact. However, after his demotion, Gossett appeared to find his groove in AAA, pitching to a 1.63 ERA with just sixteen walks in thirty eight innings, and that success carried into his first start back with Oakland last Wednesday. He will have to be sharp again to best Blake Snell, who has been the Rays’ most consistent starter all year and has been especially brutal to left handed hitters.

Game #56: Wednesday, May 30th, 7:05 - NBCSCA, Fox Sports Sun

Sean Manaea vs Nate Eovaldi

Manaea has been maddeningly hot and cold since his initial callup to the bigs, pitching both like a true TOR starting pitcher as well as prototypical AAAA fodder. This season is proving to be no different, as Manaea had the best month of his career in April, topping it off with a no hitter of the Red Sox, but has given up at least four runs in each of his five starts following it. Nate Eovaldi will be making his first start since 2016, as he has had to battle several injuries. Like Frankie Montas, Eovaldi has very high velocity for the average starting pitcher, but that velocity has failed to result in a strong K rate.

Game #57: Thursday, May 31st, 12:35 - MLBN, Fox Sports Sun

Daniel Mengden vs Rays’ Bullpen

Mengden has yet to give up a run over his last seventeen innings pitched, and likely takes exception to Manaea being referred to as the rotation ace. The funky right hander has been wonderful at limiting walks in order to make opponents earn their way on base, but its the deception from his windup and pitch movement that truly makes him stand out. His career has long been hampered due to struggling as he began to take his second and third turns through the lineup, but so far this season he has shown the ability to overcome those past struggles. In his last start, Mengden went the full nine innings, so no bullpen usage was needed. He will be going up exclusively against relief pitching in the final game of this series.