You couldn’t ask for a better performance against the Detroit Tigers by the Cleveland Indians. A dominant sweep has put them in the driver’s seat for the AL Wild Card. Unfortunately, the Twins have also been dominant, so the Tribe hasn’t really gained any ground in the AL Central race. This weekend, the Indians face off against the Rays, a team that is 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot coming into this series.
Team in a box
2019 Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays, similar to the Indians, have thrived by having an excellent pitching staff this year. Their offense, on the whole, has been a touch better than the Indians’ in 2019. This all adds up to what should be a playoff-like series for the Tribe this weekend.
Friday, August 30 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Austin Pruitt (v. Shane Bieber)
Austin Pruitt has worked exclusively in relief this season, often being used as the “primary pitcher” following an opener. This will be the first time in 2019 that Pruitt will start the game on the mound for the Rays. The Rays are hoping he can replicate his work from a few weeks ago against the Padres when he only gave up one run in 4 innings. But so far in 2019, things aren’t going well for Pruitt; across 32.1 innings in 10 appearances, Pruitt has allowed 20 earned runs while walking 9 and striking out 27 (ERA+ 81). He’s got a good groundball fastball (92 mph) that he pairs with a groundball slider (87 mph) and a groundball change (86 mph). He’ll also use a looping 12-6 curve (82 mph). His most recent appearance came on August 24 against the Orioles; in that game, Pruitt went 5.2 innings in relief and allowed 6 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out 6.
Saturday, August 31 6:10 p.m. ET: TBD (v. Zach Plesac)
FanGraphs predicts that Diego Castillo will get the ball for the Rays on Saturday, but MLB isn’t quite sure if that’s the case. Castillo, when starting, as been an opener for a primary pitcher to follow as he’s not pitched more than 2.0 innings in any game this season. At any rate, Castillo has done well this season for the Rays. He’s mostly appeared in relief, but he has a handful of starts under his belt as well. In total, across 52.2 innings in 52 games (5 starts) this season, Castillo has allowed 22 earned runs while walking 22 and striking out 60 (ERA+ 119). Castillo throws hard; he’s got a fantastic slider (89 mph) that he pairs with an insane sinker (99 mph) and a fourseam fastball (99 mph), all of which get a lot of hitters to swing and miss. His most recent appearance came in the seventh inning on August 28 against the Astros; in that game, Castillo went 1.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 3 hits while walking 1 and striking out none.
Sunday, September 1 1:10 p.m. ET: RHP Charlie Morton (v. Adam Plutko)
Charlie Morton has experienced a revival over the past couple of seasons and is currently in the middle of his best season to date. In 165.0 innings across 28 starts, Morton has allowed 57 earned runs while walking 47 and striking out 201 (ERA+ 144). He relies mainly on his knuckle curve (79 mph), but he’ll also go to his fourseam (95 mph) fairly often as well as his sinker (94 mph) and slider (86 mph). His fastball gets a lot of whiffs, whereas his sinker generates a lot of groundballs. His most recent start came on August 27 against the Astros; in that game, Morton went 4.0 innings and allowed 6 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4.
DH/OF Austin Meadows: After a solid rookie campaign (split between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay) in 2018, Austin Meadows has taken several steps forward in 2019 and is even better in his first full season in the majors. Across 476 plate appearances in 112 games, Meadows is slashing .276/.345/.529 (wRC+ 128). His 24 home runs are the most on his team, and his increased power has also come at the same time as an elevated walk (8.2%) and strikeout rates (24.2%).
OF Tommy Pham: After spending the majority of his career with the Cardinals, Tommy Pham found himself with Tampa Bay last season, and 2019 marks his first full season with the Rays. Despite the team (and league) change, Pham continues to be a fantastic bat in the lineup that he’s in. Across 547 plate appearances in 121 games, Pham is slashing .272/.373/.457 (wRC+ 123). He needs one more home run to hit the 20-dinger mark, which would give him three consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs. He’s also walking at a fantastic clip (13.2%) and has brought his strikeout rate down to 19.0%, down from 24.6% a year ago. All in all, a great season for Pham so far.
C Travis d’Arnaud: Travis d’Arnaud has technically been on three teams this season (Mets, Dodgers, and Rays) despite only having 26 combined plate appearances between two of them. But at any rate, he’s found a home in Tampa Bay and has been doing well. Since coming to Tampa, in 280 plate appearances across 71 games, d’Arnaud is slashing .269/.336/.482 (wRC+ 116). He’s still striking out at an average clip (22.1%), but he’s also walking a good amount (9.3%).
Tampa Bay Rays roster
How many games will the Indians win against the Rays?
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