An abismal stretch of games continue this week as the Rays go 2-5. But the return of Kevin Kiermaier and the turn-around of Blake Snell could mean the losing ways are coming to an end, much-needed if the Rays want to keep playing in October.
On August 3rd, everyone believed that the Rays were going to finish the second half as strong as they did the first. By August 20th, those same people were hoping that they could get a re-do on the entire month. Prior to the All-Star Break, the Rays were 47-43. Since, Tampa Bay is 13-22.
Unfortunately for fans and players alike, the collapse continued this week as the team visited Toronto before hosting Seattle.
To start this week off, Tampa Bay made its final trip over the border to play four against Toronto. Given how that visit went, it may turn into one of the Rays least favorite places to road trip in the future.
In his start Thursday, Chris Archer threw 10 strikeouts. That’s impressive, but something he accomplishes often. Although this time, those 10 strikeouts pushed him over 200 on the season, and even more impressively, over 1000 for his career. He is just the third player to throw 1000 strikeouts in a Tampa Bay uniform, joining David Price and James Shields.
Congratulations to @ChrisArcher22!
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 17, 2017
Blake Snell collected his first win of the season on Tuesday, although it was not necessarily his best start of the year. Snell pitched six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. Alex Colome closed out the game for his 35th save, extending his own American League lead.
Wilson Ramos was hot in Canada. Homering in back-to-back games, he went 6-for-12 while at the Rodgers Centre, striking out only one time and taking three walks.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 15, 2017
Jake Odorizzi impressed in his second start off the disabled list. Aside from a two-run homer by Josh Donaldson in the first, Odorizzi finished allowing just those two runs, and three hits. The highlight of the start was innings two-six, where he held the Blue Jays scoreless. This is positive news, considering in his first start back he left the game early after taking a line drive to the ankle.
The Rays dropped 3-of-4 to the Jays. Meaning, since August 4th, they were 3-10, after winning the first three games of the month. The loss Thursday put them three games under .500 for the first time since May when they were 19-22. Monday’s loss also dropped Tampa Bay to fourth in the division, after 64 straight days in third place or better.
Pitchers have turned around their performance of late. Now, the problem seems to be at the plate. The Rays as a team hit just .245 in Toronto. Not awful, just shy of 1-for-4 at the plate. But they left 45 men on base during the series. Can’t put up numbers if 45 potential runs are left stranded. And, they were only struck out 25 times, which is one of the lowest strikeout ratios for a series they have had this season.
The home run allowed by Odorizzi to Donaldson was his 26th allowed this season. His career high is 29. He is currently tied for 10th in the category of home runs allowed.
Tampa Bay lost the series, and have fallen to 7-9 against Toronto this season. With just three games remaining against the division rival, the Rays must win them all if they want to take the season series. In order to do that, they cannot leave 45 runs stranded on the diamond.
After being swept by the Mariners on the road earlier this season, Tampa Bay wanted to repay the favor on their home turf. Sadly, it did not happen as planned, although they did narrowly escape a season-sweep.
Tampa Bay got a boost Friday as their two-time defending Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier returned from the 60-day disabled list. Kiermaier got things started early sunday with his first career leadoff home run.
KK starts us with a bang. pic.twitter.com/UFD2onjxL9
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 20, 2017
It was his eighth of the year, and the Rays eighth lead off homer in 2017. In the series, Kiermaier went 5-for-12, scored three runs and was struck out four times. Not bad for a guy who fractured his hip just a little more than two months ago.
I asked Kiermaier after the game how he was feeling three games into his return…
— Scott Bach (@RealScottBach) August 20, 2017
Snell, coming off his first win of the year Tuesday in Toronto, had his best start of the year Sunday. Going seven innings, Snell held the Mariners to just two hits and two walks, collecting eight strikeouts, and allowing zero runs. That’s right…ZERO. For Snell, it was his best start since he pitched a six inning one-hit shutout in Colorado on July 19, 2016.
Colome collected save number 36, extending his lead in the American League to four games in the category.
The Rays scored six runs in a loss on Saturday. Good number; bad result. But whats worse is that was the most runs the team has scored inside Tropicana Field since June 23rd when they won 15-5 against Baltimore.
Seattle sat the Rays down on strikes 30 times in the series. Tampa Bay batters have been struck out 1214 times so far this season, which ranks among the top two in MLB, trading places back and forth with Milwaukee. Currently, that ranks eighth in franchise history for total strikeouts, but there are still 36 games to play. The record for most in a year is 1482, set just last year.
The Rays avoid the season sweep by Seattle and break a losing streak of six games that dates back to last season. The win also keeps the Rays in the postseason conversation, as they are neck-and-neck with eight other teams for the second wildcard spot. With 36 games to play, the Rays need to lean on the momentum they have after winning Sunday, and translate that into adding high numbers in the win colume.
After a stretch of 30 games in 31 days, the Rays get a break Monday. Tuesday, the Blue Jays return to Tropicana Field for the final three match-ups of the division rivals in 2017. Then Tampa Bay hits the road again.