Apr 13, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A glove and hat sits in the Tampa Bay Rays dugout during a game with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.The Reds won 12-4. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays visit the Baltimore Orioles

The Tampa Bay Rays look to close out a nine game road trip with a three game set against the Orioles in Baltimore. The Rays enter the series 3-3 on the current road trip and 7-6 overall. After dropping 2 of 3 against the Kansas City Royals, the Rays recovered by taking 2 of 3 against the Cincinnati Reds. Tampa Bay remains tied atop the AL East with the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, with all three teams currently 1.5 games up on the 4th place Baltimore Orioles.

Standings:

New York Yankees: 7-6; -5 (run differential)

Tampa Bay Rays: 7-6; +1

Toronto Blue Jays: 7-6; +5

Baltimore Orioles: 5-7 (1.5 GB); -10

Boston RedSox: 5-8 (2 GB); -7

 

The Rays will look to get going offensively, having only scored 7 runs in their series against the Reds.

 

 

While pitching and defense has been a strength this season, that took a hit with news that Alex Cobb will be sidelined for up to 6-8 weeks with an oblique injury. Add Alex to the list of Rays projected starters that are now on the DL (Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson). This forced the Rays to use a committee of pitchers yesterday in the series finale against the Reds, and Mark Topkin is reporting that Brad Boxberger will be called up as a fresh bullpen arm for tonight’s game:

 

 

Boxberger was acquired in the Alex Torres deal with the Padres this past offseason. He appeared in 18 games for the Padres last season, pitching 18 innings to the tune of 2.86 ERA/ 4.41 FIP. He sported a K/9 of 9.82 but his biggest issue appeared to be free passes, offering up 5.32 per nine.

 

Series Preview:

Game 1: Tampa Bay Rays @ Baltimore Orioles

7:05 p.m. EST

TV: Sun Sports

Radio: WDAE 620 AM /95.3 FM, WGES 680 (Sp.)

Chris Archer (1-0, 1.38 ERA/2.37 FIP) vs. Chen (1-1, 6.75 ERA/2.86 FIP )

Apr 3, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) gestures from the field at the end of the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Archer is coming off a great performance against the Kansas City Royals. He scattered 6 hits over 7 innings, striking out 4 and walking 2. In a battle against Yordano Ventura, Archer exited with the game scoreless and after the Rays scored in the 9th, the bullpen was able to lock down the victory. The second year player has looked solid in his two outings thus far, posting a K/9 of 7.62 and most importantly, the Rays have won his two starts. Chen enters Monday’s match-up after splitting his first two decisions against divisional rivals. He opened the season with a loss to the RedSox, and most recently, he was able to survive the Yankees thanks to a strong performance from his offense. His ERA leaves much to be desired, but as indicated by his FIP, he is pitching much better than the traditional stats would suggest. Chen has yet to walk a batter this season in 10.2 innings, and is suffering from an inflated BABIP (.476). The lefty could be a challenge for Tampa Bay’s offense, which has only scored 13 runs through six games during the current road trip.

Prediction: Chen proves to be difficult for the Rays, but they are able to get to the bullpen for the win.

 

Game 2: Tampa Bay Rays @ Baltimore Orioles

7:05 p.m. EST

TV: Sun Sports

Radio: WDAE 620 AM /95.3 FM, WGES 680 (Sp.)

Jake Odorizzi (1-1, 5.73 ERA/ 3.96 FIP) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 9.64 ERA/ 9.14 FIP)

Odorizzi gave up 10 hits across five innings in his last outing against the Kansas City Royals. The result was a 7-3 loss, in which Jake was responsible for all 7 earned runs. He is walking 3.27 batters per nine innings and has a BABIP of .343, almost 45 points above his career average. Odorizzi faced the Orioles late last season, pitching 3.2 innings of one hit relief during an eventual 5-4 Rays victory. Miguel Gonzalez has struggled thus far this season, with an ERA & FIP both above 9. He has a 77.1% fly ball rate, and if you couple that with a HR/FB ratio of over 26%, you can begin to understand where Gonzalez’s troubles originate. Eight different Rays players have hit HRs this season, and this match-up appears to favor the Rays.

Prediction: Odorizzi and Gonzalez both prove to be serviceable, though the Orioles hold on to win 3-2.

 

Game 3: Tampa Bay Rays @ Baltimore Orioles

12:35 p.m. EST

TV: Sun Sports, MLBN

Radio: WDAE 620 AM /95.3 FM, WGES 680 (Sp.)

David Price (2-0, 2.91 ERA/ 2.72 FIP) vs. Chris Tillman (1-1, 0.84 ERA/ 3.37 FIP)

David Price has kicked off the 2014 campaign strong, proving to be the ace that the Rays need to remain successful, especially given the recent injuries to Moore & Cobb. Price has struck out over a batter per inning, and has walked just 2 batters across 21.2 innings. He enters this series coming off a dominant performance against the Cincinnati Reds, striking out 10 and allowing only 4 hits and 1 ER over 8.1 innings. Price will look to continue his early season dominance, though he’ll need to deal with Matt Wieters, who in 38 at-bats against Price is sporting a .368/.415/.605 slash line (fingers crossed Wieters sits the early afternoon game following a night game). Tillman has matched Price’s early season success, allowing only 2 ER across three starts (21.1 innings). Tillman is the benefactor of a 92% strand rate, as well as a BABIP of just .206 (career average: .273).

Prediction: This advertised pitchers duel turns into a rout, with the Rays winning 8-2 to take the series.

 

Players to Watch:

Apr 13, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run off Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Nick Christiani (58) during the seventh inning at Great American Ball Park.The Reds won 12-4. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Davis, 1B: Davis owned the Rays last season, hitting .270/.357/.608 with 6 HR and 18 RBI. While he is off to a “slow” start this season (he hit his first HR of the season yesterday), the Rays could be the spark he needs to get going offensively.

Ben Zobrist, 2B: Zobrist was responsible for all of the Rays offense yesterday in their loss to the Reds, hitting a pair of 2-run HRs. He is hitting .304 over the past seven days with 3 HRs and 5 RBIs–his ability to keep up this offensive production will be key for an offense that has struggled over the past two series.

 

For more information on the upcoming series, visit the Fansided team pages for the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles.

 

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Tags: Ben Zobrist Chris Archer David Price Jake Odorizzi Major League Baseball Rays

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