Manager: Kevin Cash (4th season)
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: CF Mallex Smith (.344/.412/.871) 1B C.J. Cron (5 HR, 13 RBIs), OF Denard Span (17 RBIs), 2B Daniel Robertson (.318), RHP Blake Snell (3-1, 2.54 ERA)
Season series vs. Orioles: First meeting (11-8 in 2017)
April 24: RHP Jake Faria (1-1) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (0-2), 7:05 p.m., MASN
April 25: RHP Chris Archer (1-1) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (1-2), 7:05 p.m., MASN2
April 26: RHP Blake Snell (3-1) vs. Chris Tillman (0-4), 7:05 p.m., MASN
Inside the Rays:
For the first time in his major league career, ex-Ray Alex Cobb will be on the mound against his former team in tonight’s series opener. In his only two starts for Baltimore, he has allowed 15 runs on 20 hits in only seven innings. Cobb had spent the entirety of his adult life as a member of the Rays organization, drafted out of high school and developing into a leader in the clubhouse before signing a prosperous free agent contract with the Orioles in March. Cobb is one of many former Rays that are no longer with the ballclub after this past offseason due to release, free agency or trade. All-Star Corey Dickerson? Gone. Franchise face Evan Longoria? Gone. Longtime starter Jake Odorizzi? Gone. Burgeoning power threat Steven Souza Jr.? Gone. The Rays are in the midst of a rebuild. Some of their former players weren’t part of the future blueprint for the club’s success and the front office sent a lot of familiar faces who called Florida their home on to new beginnings.
So Tampa Bay will make do with what’s left and hope for the best. On Saturday against the Twins, first baseman C.J. Cron recorded the ninth multiple-homer game of his career, the second time in his career that both blasts had runners on base. Outfielder Denard Span had at least three RBIs in consecutive games for the first time in his career in strong performances Friday and Saturday versus the Twins. Span, a Tampa native in his first season with the ballclub, is enjoying being a veteran presence in the clubhouse as his career begins to wind down. Span enjoys mentoring up-and-coming youngsters like center fielder Mallex Smith, who is getting more playing time following an injury to Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for up to three months following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. Smith is batting .344, good for sixth in the American League. Outfielder Carlos Gómez told his 9-year-old son he’d get a home run for him on Sunday, and it turned out to be the most crucial hit of the game: a two-run walk-off homer, the first of his career. Adeiny Hechavarria blasted a three-run homer against the Twins on Sunday, but that’s an aberration for the light-hitting shortstop, who is currently tied for third place in the AL for sacrifice flies with three. But he’s got 11 RBIs, and for a team struggling to score runs, that’s significant.
Righty Jake Faria, who starts Tuesday night’s opener, recorded a victory Wednesday against the Rangers, his first win since July 25, 2017 against the Orioles. Faria has a 4.09 ERA in four appearances (three starts) in his career against the Orioles, and no decisions with a 4.15 ERA in two appearances at Camden Yards. Veteran right-hander Chris Archer allowed two runs on four hits and a walk in six innings with five strikeouts in a no-decision against the Twins on Friday. He’s got a long history against the Birds, but not an impressive one: 5-8 with a 4.81 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). The Rays haven’t announced a Thursday starter yet, but all signs point toward righty Blake Snell, who has easily been their most effective starting pitcher this season. Snell has worked at least six innings in each of his last three outings. He’s 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA in three lifetime starts against Baltimore, but owns an 8.41 ERA in his lone career start at Camden Yards. There’s always the chance that the Rays go with a bullpen day - their early-season method of trying to compensate for a lack of strong starting pitching - but they appear to be moving away from that strategy.
Closer Alex Colomé has been struggling, blowing two of his six save chances this season and posting a bloated 7.00 ERA and 2.22 WHIP. You have to wonder if he’s pitching himself out of the ninth inning.