Reviewing the Series: #21 Houston Astros
The Rays caught a break this series with Carlos Correa being unavailable due to a rolled ankle suffered the day before this set began play. The team seized on that advantage to take two of the three games, but it was the poor performing pitching that was the real difference maker in this series. The Rays hit enough to the point where they were in each of these games, but it was the stout pitching from both, the starters and relievers, that sealed the deal. You can be upset about pissing away the middle game, and I wouldn’t argue since there is no reason to use Dana Eveland in that situation, but it does offset some of the luck factor that led to a win in the opener.
The Rays got outslugged in that first game, but were still able to take a game that was essentially a coinflip based on the matchups. The second game saw the Rays give some of that goodwill back, however, as they squandered another very good start from Chris Archer. The finale was an all-lefty affair between Matt Moore and Dallas Keuchel with the latter being pretty good outside of a blowup inning and the former being extraordinary throughout. The big inning has been Moore’s bugaboo this year so it was nice to see it go the other way for once. This is absolutely a start to build upon that has been somewhat of a culmination of gradual progress over the last several.
Sticking with that pitching you can see just how very good Moore and Archer were, but they were joined by Tyler Sturdevant who continues to shine in a limited role out of the pen. He’s able to get six outs if needed and has done an admirable job of getting both lefties and righties, of late. The rest of the pen was pretty close to average other than DaFA Eveland. You’ll also notice here that Andriese had a very poor start, but was able to avoid turning all that production into runs until it was time for him to go.
I’m all for moving him to the pen, because it seems that the league is starting to get more comfortable facing him. While he has a similar repertoire to guys like Alex Cobb or Erasmo Ramirez it seems that he is more like the latter with an emphasis on grounders over the strikeouts. Until Kiermaier comes back and shows that he is ready to play this staff needs every strikeout it can get. In that regard, Blake Snell should be a tremendous mid-season pickup. I’d expect him to take his lumps from time to time, but he’s very good and should show that over the rest of the season.
With this lede sufficiently buried it’s time to look at that ravenous offense that just can’t be sated. The Lakeland Launcher continued to ruin opposition pitching as he is just putting together incredible at bats. When ahead he is able to pick out what he wants and then deliver the killing strike, but he has also battled quite well when behind. The elbow issue probably will not improve without rest, but for now this team needs to ride him.
While much of the team hit it was not all roses and sunshine. The Rays have a glaring hole in the outfield corners that does not appear ready to remedy itself anytime soon. Souza continues to slide from his early season success, and he is joined by Jennings and Dickerson who haven’t really gotten it going outside of some good moments. The team needs one of these three guys to assert himself as an everyday option so that the other two can be more carefully managed, but until then it’s going to be more of an unproductive spin cycle. Lastly, it was a sight for sore eyes to see Logan Forsythe back in the lineup. He flies under the radar, because he seems to do everything pretty well, but in this series he looked a little rusty. The good was nice to see and I’d expect the bad to dissipate as he continues to get his timing back and his body adjusts to the rigors of everyday play again.
The Astros can really hit with a bunch of sluggers that aren’t afraid to swing and swing often. Jose Altuve continues to differentiate himself as one of the best players in the game, but his strong play was offset by the Rays having the answer to the powerful twosome of Springer and Gattis. Each of these games could have turned on a dime if one of those guys had parked a mistake, but they did not and the Rays were better for it.
Looking at their pitching we can see that McCullers wasn’t good, but Fiers wasn’t a whole lot better. The Rays were able to get to Sipp and Harris, but other than that their pen is really good and performed as such. This was a really tight series, but the Rays delivered the edge in pitching, for once. If that continues while the offense can keep mashing this team is going to go on a very nice run at a very important time.