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A Tampa Bay Rays Blog: Ball on a Budget

Updated: 2017-04-23T19:03:24-04:00


Rays 4, Astros 6: Pitching and defense can’t hold an early lead


Offense can’t get anything going after the first inning. The Rays jumped on the Astros for four runs in the first inning. It was a big inning that was extremely close to not happening at all. Corey Dickerson started off by swinging awkwardly at an 0-2 curve in the dirt. The pitch actually bounced hard off home plate and kicked away from catcher Brian McCann. Dickerson made it to first easily for the strikeout/wild pitch. In the next at bat, Logan Morrison lifted reached a changeup on the outside and hit it hard to straightaway center field, but The Trop held it. Also Jake Marisnick held it, despite hitting the wall hard as he made the catch, so kudos to him. He got the ball in before going down with the wind knocked out of him, so Dickerson was held at first base, keeping the double play in order. Evan Longoria nearly obliged by grounding into that double play, but his groundball to short wasn’t hit hard and he beat the turn. Joe Musgrove seemed to be in control, though, and he quickly got to two strikes against Brad Miller. But on the third pitch—a changeup maybe just below the zone—Miller yanked a hard line drive past first that ran all the way to the corner for a triple, knocking in the first run of the game. Up next, Steven Souza Jr. had an excellent at bat where he fought off a 1-2 pitch in on his hands. When the next pitch didn’t make it quite as far inside, Souza did not allow himself to be jammed. He pulled his hands in and blasted a line-drive home run off the left-field foul pole to stretch the lead to 3-0. Then Shane Peterson and Rickie Weeks Jr. tapped a pair of seeing-eye singles. Jesus Sucre earned his hit though, pulling his hands in and lining an inside fastball into left-center. Marisnick did a good job to cut it off, but I did think live it was the type of hit where someone could score from first. Maybe not if that someone is Rickie Weeks these days, and Weeks didn’t try. The Rays left the inning happy enough, though, up 4-0. Why shouldn’t they be? A 4-run league after one inning is plenty, right? (Not) Holding the Lead But the Astros didn’t roll over. In the third inning, Carlos Beltran chopped a grounder up the middle. Matt Andriese had an opportunity to glove it, but his stab only deflected it so that no other infielders could make a play. A batter later, Carlos Correa took an 0-2 fastball on the outside edge of the plate and drove it the other way for a two-run homer. There’s an argument that in that pitcher’s count, Andriese should have worked further outside, but it was still very good hitting. Tip your cap. In the top of the fifth inning, Andriese gave Jose Altuve a first-pitch fastball right down the middle. Altuve was all over it for a pulled home run to left. There’s an argument that Andriese shouldn’t groove fastballs. Andriese left after the fifth and was relieved by Chase Whitley, who worked a clean sixth inning. In the seventh, Norichi Aoki barely beat out (maybe, too close to tell on replay) an infield single, but was able to get the next two outs. With Beltran out, Kevin Cash turned to the anti-switch-hitter weapon, Danny Farquhar, who got the groundout. That brought the Rays to the eighth inning, up one, and Cash gave the ball to his closer, Alex Colome, for the two-out save. It didn’t work. That’s a story. But, honestly, can you say that Colome pitched badly? In the eighth he gave up a single on a beautiful bunt by Altuve, but Altuve was erased in a double play. He walked McCann, but then got out of the inning with a popup. In the ninth, Gurriel lead off with a line-drive opposite-field single, but it was a really nice hit going the other way on a pitch well-placed down and away from him. Aoki grounded to first base, advancing the runner, but with a fielder who had played more first than Weeks, that could have been a double play, or at least an out at second erasing the lead runner. That lead runner advanced to third via a passed ball by Sucre. Then Gurriel came home on a fly ball just deep enough to right field. Good throw by Souza. Just not enou[...]

Rays vs Astros Preview: The final game of the series


Matt Andriese hopes to secure a series victory again Joe Musgrove and the Astros The Tampa Bay Rays were victorious last night as they battled all night and thanks to some timely hitting, they defeated the Astros 6-3. The victory improved the Rays record on the season to 10-9 while the Astros fell to 12-6. The Rays are now 9-3 at home this season, but that’s much different than the rest of the top 3 in the division. If you combine the top 4 teams in the AL East’s home record, it comes out to 30-7. Today, the Rays and Astros finish off the three game series, so far they have split the first two games. The first pitch is slated for 1:10 pm Starting Pitchers Matt Andriese vs Joe Musgrove Andriese was stellar during his last time out as he turned in an excellent performance against the Detroit Tigers on the 18th. Andriese completed six innings and allowed a mere run on four hits, where the lone run came via a solo homer. Andriese also struck out five and walked one. Joe Musgrove Scouting Report It’s been a rough go of it for Musgrove to start the 2017 season. He has struggled to pitch deep into games with him tallying just over 15 innings pitched despite having already made three starts. His last time out was his worst start of the season as he allowed five runs on eight hits (including two homeruns), while he also walked one and struck out five over five innings pitched against the Angels on the 18th. His Arsenal Musgrove has six pitches he’ll use against opposing batters: A fastball, cutter, and sinker in the low 90’s as well as a slider, curveball, and change-up in the low 80’s. His Career Splits Thus far over his young career (14 games, 13 starts), righties have fared slightly better against him than lefties, although both have over a .325 wOBA against him. Meanwhile, he has done much better whenever he pitches in Houston as opposed to away. Hitters have a .410 wOBA against him when he is the visiting pitcher, although there are only 137 plate appearances to base that from. Musgrove has respectable numbers his first time through the order, but once the lineup turns over, things get a lot tougher for the young righty. If hitters get the chance to face him a third time, they have a .419 wOBA thus far. Starting Lineups Today's Lineups HOUSTON ASTROS TAMPA BAY RAYS Josh Reddick - RF Corey Dickerson - LF Carlos Beltran - DH Logan Morrison - DH Jose Altuve - 2B Evan Longoria - 3B Carlos Correa - SS Brad Miller - 2B Brian McCann - C Steven Souza - CF Alex Bregman - 3B Shane Peterson - RF Yulieski Gurriel - 1B Rickie Weeks - 1B Norichika Aoki - LF Jesus Sucre - C Jake Marisnick - CF Tim Beckham - SS Joe Musgrove - RHP Matt Andriese - RHP [...]

Tampa Bay Rays Promote Chih-Wei Hu, Place Tommy Hunter on Disabled List



The Rays have promoted one of their top prospects

During last night’s game, Tommy Hunter injured his calf as he ran to cover first base on a groundball. There were crutches by his locker following the game, but he instead chose to limp out on his own accord. The Rays have now placed him on the 10-day disabled list with a right-calf strain.

In his place, the Rays have promoted one of their top pitching prospects, Chih Wei Hu. He’ll become the first Taiwan born player for the Rays and only the 12th in all of baseball history.

The Rays acquired Hu at the 2015 trade deadline in the trade of Kevin Jepsen to the Twins, and since that time Hu has become one of the top prospects for the Rays, as Baseball America has ranked him their 5th top prospect entering the 2016 season.

The 23 year old pitcher has actually spent parts of three seasons at the Triple-A level, but only has a grand total of five games at that level, four have come with the Durham Bulls (three this season) while the other came while he was in the Twins organization.

In 24 starts at Double-A last season, Hu had a 2.59 ERA with an 18.4% strikeout and 6.2% walk rate. Hu was previously featured as a Rays representative in the Futures Game during the All-Star Break.

Rays DOTF 4/23: Durham plays 2 and Montgomery goes 13.


Ryan Boldt, Garrett Whitley, and Willy Adames have big days offensively. Rays affiliates put a lot of runs on the board as a whole and played late into the night. An afternoon double header sweep by the Durham Bulls and a thirteen inning loss by the Montgomery Biscuits. The offenses were led by Willy Adames, Garrett Whitley, and Ryan Boldt. Triple-A Durham Bulls (11-5) In game one of the double header of the game that was suspended in the fourth inning on Friday night the Durham Bulls beat the Louisville Bats 6-2. Justin Marks allowed two runs in the start over three innings. Andrew Kitteridge picked up the ball when the game resumed and threw three innings of baseball keeping the Bats scoreless. Patrick Leonard was at bat when the Bulls scored their first three runs. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers scored on a fielding error on a Leonard ball in the fourth inning and Adames scored on a Leonard single in the eighth. In the ninth Adames came through with a bases clearing three run double to put the game away for the Bulls. Bauers had two hits and a walk. Adames added three hits including two doubles. Jacob Faria took the mound in the Bulls 7-1 victory in the seven inning game two of the double header. Faria pulled a Blake Snell impersonation going five innings while striking out six and walking five. He allowed one run on four hits. The Bulls were the first on the scoreboard with a two run second inning. Kean Wong drove in the first run with a bases loaded walk before Cade Gotta drove in the second run with a sacrifice fly. The Bulls tacked on single runs in the fourth and fifth innings on an RBI double by Willy Adames and an RBI single by Michael McKenry. The Bulls added three more in the seventh on a Curt Casali RBI double and two RBI single by Dayron Varona. Double-A Montgomery Biscuits (8-7) The Montgomery Biscuits blew a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth on the way to eventually losing the game 8-4 in thirteen innings. Greg Harris received the start and allowed single runs in the first and third to put the Biscuits down 2-0 before the offense came back. Harris went five innings allowing two unearned runs and five hits while striking out seven and walking two. Joe McCarthy put the Biscuits on the scoreboard with his first homer of the season in the fifth inning. Grant Kay added a 2 RBI single in the sixth. Nathan Lukes added a RBI single in the seventh to put the Biscuits up 4-2. In the top of the ninth the Kyle Winkler got in a jam allowing two walks before handing the ball to Brad Schreiber with two outs. Schreiber couldn’t get the final out before allowing the tying run to score after a wild pitch scored one and a Connor Lien RBI single. Bats for both teams went quiet until the thirteenth when the Mississippi Braves put up four with a Joey Meneses RBI single ahead of a three run homer by Adam Brett Walker II. Colby Rasmus made his first rehab appearance since colliding with Ryan Boldt going one for three with a double and two strikeouts. Class A-Advanced Port Charlotte Stone Crabs (7-10) Blake Bivens received the start for the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs in their 10-6 victory over the Palm Beach Cardinals. Bivens allowed five runs over seven innings. Cardinal bats were swinging early and collected twelve hits including two homers against the right hander. Bivens struck out six and issued one walk in his 87 pitch performance. The Stone Crabs exploded for seven runs in the third. Brett Sullivan put the Stone Crabs on the board with a RBI single ahead of a bases clearing three run double by Ryan Boldt. Dalton Kelly followed with an RBI single. David Olmedo-Barrera capped off the scoring with an RBI double. David Rodriguez added an RBI single in the seventh. Kevin Padlo drove in the final run of the evening for the Stone Crabs with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Ryan Boldt led the offense with three hits, three RBI, and a run scored. Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods (8-7) The Bowling Green Hot Rods roared out to a 8-0 lead after th[...]

Rays Game MVP Recap: Week 3



A leader breaks out from the pack

The Rays added three to the win column in the third week of baseball, thanks to some tough luck on defense by the Detroit Tigers. The Rays swept the series and therefore three game balls were awarded to MVPs for each win. Let’s take a look at who you voted for.

The Polls

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everybody. Tomorrow’s wrap up game is a 1:10 PM start.

Rays vs Astros Preview: No Errors for Blake, Please



And let’s get back over .500

The Rays will look to bounce back from a 6-3 series-opening defeat to the Houston Astros when the two square off in a rare 6:10 p.m. start Saturday evening. The Rays sit at .500 on the season, battling to stay in the picture in what is one of their toughest stretches of the season schedule-wise. The Astros meanwhile have been as good as advertised to start 2017, leading the AL West with a 12-5 record that trails only the Baltimore Orioles in all of baseball.

The Rays will send young Blake Snell to toe the rubber, while the Astros counter with Charlie Morton.

Starting Pitchers

Blake Snell

Snell’s 2017 profile is living proof of just how strange early-season statistics can be. The 24-year-old is 0-2, but he has a solid 2.76 ERA. However, he has a 4.18 FIP and 5.13 xFIP, and he is walking (5.51 BB/9) nearly as many as he is striking out (6.06 K/9). On the flip side of that, ask most Rays fans what they think of Snell so far this season and you’ll get mostly strong reviews.

This will be another nice test early in the campaign for Snell, as the Astros sport the second-best offense in baseball per wRC+ (120), and they don’t have an inherent weakness against lefties (all nine hitters in Saturday’s starting lineup are either right-handed or switch-hitters). They have fared slightly worse against lefties in 2017 (wRC+ of 98), but it is still so early in the season that there is a lot of noise there.

Charlie Morton

Over at The Crawfish Boxes, the SBNation writers for Houston are likely saying similar things about the Rays right now. The Rays have the third-best offense in baseball per wRC+ (119) this season, and while they have been slightly better against lefties, they have been more than capable against righties (114 wRC+). The Rays will send an impressive five lefties against Morton to start Saturday’s game, but the platoon advantage has actually been reverse for Morton in 2017, with righties getting the better of him this season.

Morton is a three-and-a-half pitch pitcher, relying heavily on a sinker (51 percent in 2017, per Brooks Baseball), while mixing in 25 percent curveballs, 14 percent cutters, and nine percent splitters. Morton is one of the stranger stories of the last 14 months, as he added nearly four mph to his sinker since the 2015 season. Morton is averaging over 96 mph on his sinker in 2017, faster than he has ever thrown any pitch in his entire career.

Morton relies heavily on either the sinker or cutter to get ahead in the count and relies more on the curve to put hitters away. With the aforementioned five lefties in the starting lineup for Tampa, expect to see a lot more of the curve in today’s game.

Starting Lineups

The Bowling Green Hot Rods and the Rays Farm System Approach


In most cases, a team’s Class-A team won’t be of too much importance. Watching teenagers play baseball isn’t always fun, and with how far away these players are from the majors, most casual and even dedicated fans won’t necessarily pay too much attention to what’s going on in the low levels of the minors. But for certain teams, the low minors might tell a story or provide hope. For the Rays, it might do both. The Bowling Green Hot Rod lineup features prospects Garrett Whitley, Jesus Sanchez, Joshua Lowe, Adrian Rondon and Lucius Fox. All five have considerable upside and tools, but more importantly, all seem to be a part of a shift in the kind of prospects Tampa looks to acquire through various methods. How the young guns got here In 2014, the Rays traded for Willy Adames, among others, for David Price. That same year, the Rays signed Adrian Rondon as their top international prospect, incurring the financial penalty and not being allowed to spend big on the international market for two years. In December of 2014, the Rays acquired Jake Bauers in the Wil Myers trade, again picking up a young, advanced hitter as a small part to a large deal. In the 2015 draft, the Rays took outfielder Garrett Whitley in the first round and catcher Chris Betts in the second round. Prior to the 2015 draft, Jesus Sanchez was signed out of the Dominican. High risk, high reward teenage position players remained the theme. In 2016, the rays acquired Lucius Fox in the Matt Moore trade and drafted Joshua Lowe in the first round of the draft, continuing the trend of young, toolsy young hitters, and all of them stand in stark contrast to the players the Rays seemed to value in previous drafts and acquisitions, such as college hitters Mikie Mahtook, Richie Shaffer, or possible success story Casey Gillaspie. Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images Josh Lowe How it’s going so far This new approach isn’t a far cry from what has made the Rays successful in the past, picking up Chris Archer as a smaller part of the Matt Garza trade and help him blossom into a top of the rotation arm, or gambling on Tim Beckham number one in the 2008 draft over safer college targets. But the difference is noticeable. With the Rays running into some tough years and needing as much upside as possible to regain a winning edge, these recent moves are a good sign. The early returns have been mixed, with Whitley and Lowe showing plenty of plate discipline but almost all of Bowling Green’s lineup struggling to make consistent contact. On the positive side, the group athleticism gives them a solid chance to make the majors without putting too much pressure on their bats. Lowe and Whitley profile as possible center fielders with plus legs while Fox profiles as a true up the middle shortstop. This swing towards raw, young athletes has already yielded success in the Rays’ upper farm system, and hopefully, soon the major league team. Willy Adames has filled into his 6’1” 180-pound frame while remaining a capable shortstop with a great batter’s eye. Jake Bauers has steadily increased his power production while still using the whole field and extending his versatility to the corner outfield. A little further down, Justin Williams (acquired for Jeremy Hellickson) is progressing towards hitting more fly balls and line drives and utilizing his raw strength in game, with above average reports on defense. He’ll turn 22 this year, his second season with Double-A Montgomery. Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports Justin Williams At the time of each of these player’s acquisitions, they were an extra piece with raw upside, and each has shown signs of becoming quality major leaguers, maybe even all-stars, in the future. With that approach in full swing, Bowling Green’s roster is an extreme example of the Rays getting younger and more athletic in[...]