Arizona Diamondbacks (25-34) vs Tampa Bay Rays (25-30)
In an absolutely shocking turn of events, the D-Backs have been very bad over the last week, winning only 2 of their last 7. In the weekend series against the Cubs, the D-Backs lost the first two, and then beat Jake Arrieta because reasons. I suppose it is fitting that both D-Backs wins last week came against last year's Cy Young winners in a season that has made no sense. The D-backs are now 6th in the NL in runs per game (4.43), and an abysmal 13th in runs allowed per game (5.09). Allowing over 5 runs a game is not a good way to make a climb in the standings, and as the D-Backs sit 10 games back of San Fran in the West, a postseason berth would take nothing short of a miracle. Crazier things have happened though...
State of the Rays
The Rays have been one of the more disappointing teams in baseball along with the D-Backs, bringing up the rear in a division they were supposed to compete in. Looking at different pre-season expectations, the Rays were expected to have a really good rotation and defense, and an offense that was just good enough with some offseason additions in the form of Corey Dickerson and Brad Miller. It appears that the offense has done their part, with an OPS+ of 104, and a league leading 83 home runs. The pitching staff is where your problem arises. 3 key rotation pieces (Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly) are all having by far the worst seasons of their careers. This lack of performance, along with a handful of injuries to the offense, puts the Rays in last place in the AL East.
- Goldy is back! In his last 13 games, he has a triple slash of .318/.455/.523. It has been fantastic to see him finding his stride.
- Corey Dickerson, expected to come to Tampa and be a big power guy, has a slugging percentage of .341 in the last 2 weeks. Ouch.
- The Rays bullpen has been pretty terrible lately, with a 5.26 ERA since May 23.
- Ya know how I mentioned Goldy is back??? The rest of the offense has taken a large downwards spiral in that same time span. They have a wRC+ of 79 in that time span. League average is 100.
- The Rays, on the other hand, have been killing it during that period, with a team OPS of .770. During the hot streak, they also have 5 regular starters with a batting average of .300.
Starting pitchers Shelby Miller and Rubby de la Rosa are both unable to come back for this series. Miller seems closer to returning, with a bullpen session and extended Spring Training game under his belt. Outfielder David Peralta was sent to Reno for rehab on Saturday, and could come back as soon as Monday.
On the Tampa Bay side, their best hitter, Logan Forsythe, has been out since mid-May, and will not return for this series. Two other regular starters, Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer, are also on the DL, and will not play against Arizona.
Game 1: Robbie Ray LHP (2-4, 4.74 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) vs Chris Archer RHP (3-7, 4.75 ERA, 1.52 WHIP)
In his last 8 starts, Robbie Ray is averaging a little less than 5 innings per start. He is one of the primary reasons that the bullpen is so taxed. Once De La Rosa and Miller come back, I would not be shocked if Ray gets bumped from the rotation. He will need to start getting deeper into games to secure his spot.
After being one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last three years, with an ERA in the low 3s each season, Archer's numbers have suddenly ballooned this season. There are a couple numbers that jump out at me when you compare this season to the rest of his career: homers and walks per 9 are both wayyyy up from his normal levels. He has the third highest BB/9 rate in the AL, at 4.21. He's gotta find a way to get his control back if he wants to return to his ace status. Advantage Rays.
Game 2: Zack Greinke RHP (7-3, 4.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) vs Matt Moore LHP (2-3, 5.46 ERA, 1.52 WHIP)
Greinke's last outing was his best of the year, a 7 inning, 0 run, 11 strikeout performance against the Astros. He is looking much more like the guy Arizona wanted, with a 2.57 ERA in his last 4 games. I forsee that recent success continuing into Tuesday.
Matt Moore has just one quality start in his last 6 games. That's a problem. Back in 2013, Moore had a fantastic sophomore season, had TJ surgery in 2014, and has been awful ever since then. He has had some big problems this season away from the Trop, with a road ERA of 6.33. Huge advantage to Arizona.
Game 3: Archie Bradley RHP (2-1, 4.94 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) vs Jake Odorizzi RHP (2-3. 3.33 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
Archie is going to make it tough for the D-Backs to send him down once Rubby and Shelby are healthy. He has put up two phenomenal starts in a row, going a total of 13.1 innings, allowing 4 runs, and striking out 19. He's doing all of this with just a fastball, knuckle-curve, and a rare change-up. Bradley is one of few causes for smiles on the faces of D-Backs fans.
Odorizzi has been solid this year, with an ERA+ of 119. He's a like last year's version of Robbie Ray in a way, not going deep into games but not allowing many runs either. The difference between the two is found in pitching style. Odorizzi is more of a junkballer, with an average fastball velocity around 91 and a wide variety of secondary pitches. I'm looking forward to this pitching matchup, should be a close one. Slight advantage to the D-Backs, because like teammate Matt Moore, Odorizzi struggles on the road. He has an ERA of 4.22 away from Tropicana.
Keys to the Series
Everything- The D-Backs are doing nothing well. Absolutely nothing. I already mentioned the struggles of the offense in the last 2 weeks. The pitching takes it to another level. They have an ERA of 5.94 in that time frame. At this point, you can't really say oh, if they can just get one more thing going right, then they'll start winning. Everyone needs to step up, big time.
The D-Backs lose 2 of 3 at home. Sounds familiar, I know.