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Series #48: Athletics at Rays - The Other Surging Team

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays’ Current Record:

80-65, third place in the AL East and eight games back of the A’s for the second wild card spot. They are 8-2 over their last ten games.

Possible Lineup:

Mallex Smith - RF

Matt Duffy - 3B

Ji-Man Choi - DH

Tommy Pham - LF

Joey Wendle - 2B

Willie Adames - SS

Kevin Kiermaier - CF

Jake Bauers - 1B

Nick Cuiffo - C

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Diego Castillo - RHP

Openers/Bullpen Games

Hottest Hitter(s):

A big reason the Rays have been so successful in the season’s second half is because of the position players the team acquired at the deadline. Ji-Man Choi was nearly out of professional baseball in the US and entirely blocked in the Brewers’ system, and the Rays traded Brad Miller for him in June. Since the All Star Break, Choi has been hitting .300/.394/.575 and leads the team with seven home runs. Another trade acquisition, Tommy Pham, has an OPS of .962 since being traded to the team.

Coldest Hitter(s):

The Rays have had one of the best offenses since the break, but not everyone is performing. Former Giants’ third baseman Matt Duffy only has a .616 OPS with just four extra base hits since the break, as the Rays haven’t been able to adequately replace Evan Longoria’s production at the hot corner. First baseman Jake Bauers has been hitting only .137/.266/.267 in the season’s second half.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

The A’s are fortunately going to miss Blake Snell in this series, the Cy Young candidate has a 2.03 ERA with 195 strikeouts in 165 innings, and a miniscule 0.98 WHIP to go with all that. Yonny Chirinos has been an unsung hero for the Rays as a long man in the team’s bullpen, often paired with an opener. The righty has been consistent all year, giving the team the most innings since the ASB and keeping his ERA well under four.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

The Rays did themselves a favor in trading away Chris Archer for the likes of Tyler Glasnow, and now if there was to be a weak link to point to in the rotation it would be the front end of their bullpen. While the team has a lot of breadth in the bullpen, like the A’s, the Rays don’t quite have the depth of Oakland’s, and the Rays can be vulnerable in the middle innings if they don’t get a lot of innings out of their long reliever on bullpen days.

Key Injuries:

Injuries have impacted the Rays and their rotation all season long, but at this point the Rays are as healthy as they’re going to be.

* * *

With the Rays eight games out with fourteen or so games left on the schedule, it would take a collapse of miraculous proportions for the Rays to sneak in and snatch up the final playoff spot from the A’s. That isn’t likely to happen, but a sweep of the A’s would thrust that scenario into the realms of possibility, and so it is vital for the A’s to continue to play good baseball and to take a game, or two, or three, from Tampa in Tampa. The Rays have had a top five offense and defense in the American League in the second half, and have just surpassed the Mariners in the Wild Card chase, and with an overall record of 46-25 at home, the Rays have been one of the toughest teams to beat at home all season. This series will be a tough one.

Game #148: Friday, September 14th, 4:10 - NBCSCA, Fox Sports Sun, MLB.tv

Edwin Jackson vs Diego Castillo

Jackson’s last start was cut short due to ineffectiveness against a strong Texas Rangers’ lineup, but fortunately for him the bullpen was able to bail him out. This was a bit of a role reversal, as typically this season, Jackson has been consistently able to bail out the bullpen, as he’s more able to get through five innings than any other starter on the team. The length of Castillo’s start is a bit of a mystery, as he typically throws high octane fastballs for an inning or two before getting removed.

Game #149: Saturday, September 15th, 3:10 - NBCSCA, Fox Sports Sun, MLB.tv

Bullpen vs Bullpen

Saturday’s game has no starter scheduled for either team, meaning both teams will be bullpenning. With Trevor Cahill on the sidelines needing to fix up his ailing back, in lieu of placing Cahill back on the disabled list, they are hoping he will only miss one start and are relying on the expanded September roster to get the job done. In all likelihood, Daniel Mengden or Frankie Montas will see the bulk of innings in this game.

Game #150: Sunday, September 16th, 10:10 - NBCSCA, Fox Sports Sun, MLB.tv

Mike Fiers vs TBD/Bullpen

Fiers has been the savior of the A’s pitching staff since he arrived in the late summer. In the unlikely event that he should get into danger early, however, it will likely be all hands on deck in order to keep the game close, since the team has an off day on Monday following the early Sunday game.