Game 13 Lineups and Outlook
Feeling fresh and revived after yesterday’s off day it’s time for the Rays to get back out there and sell some dang copiers. Err, win baseball games. Yeah, that’s the ticket. This is a big week. Really big week. Yuuuuge week. If the Rays were planning to make up for the hole they put themselves in to start this year then this is an awfully good time as the team hits the road for their first real roadtrip. Not just any trip, but a voyage to the Northeast where there is much hay to be made. Starting off with Boston and then moving on to New York the Rays have this opportunity to make up some ground within the division, while bringing hell with them up the standings.
Tonight’s tilt features their Joe Kelly vs. our own Drew Smyly. Smyly so far has looked every bit the part of a strong number two pitcher. The strikeouts have been by the gallon. The walks have nearly ceased to exist. The home runs have been too many. Pitching in this band box as a fly ball pitcher will be a test for Smyly. I’d expect him to try to stay arm-side as much as possible in an effort to keep balls to the big part of the field. This is no easy task, but I think we’re about to learn quite a bit about how very good Smyly can be.
Joe Kelly has looked every bit the part of a number two. He lives and dies by his fastball command, because it’s the only pitch that he can sometimes put where he wants. He has somehow allowed even more homers than Smyly on a rate basis, and that’s when he manages to find the zone as he’s currently walking 17% of batters. The Rays need to jump all over this guy, and the earlier the better. Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara put in extensive work yesterday and neither looked all that good doing it. Kimbrel couldn’t throw his breaker for strikes. If that continues to be the case then the Rays need to spit on spin and sit on the heater. Getting into this pen early and often should be a major key for the Rays this series.
Vegas isn’t taking a side in this first game of the series. The Matchup tool actually projects these two as completely even, but Boston gets the slight edge due to the home field. Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez look like the toughest matchups for Smyly, and there are a couple of other guys that can hurt you, but there are also what look like some dead spots. Corey Dickerson looks like the best option for the Rays who spread their talent around. I think if the bottom of the order can pull their weight in this series then Tampa Bay has a good chance of winning tonight. Souza has been our best hitter, but we need to get more out of Kiermaier and Casali.