Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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MLB Preview: Los Angeles Angels (68-82) at Tampa Bay Rays (92-59)


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RAY REPORT — Tampa Bay opens its final homestand of the season, a six-day, six-game stint featuring matchups with Los Angeles-AL and Toronto…the Rays are 30-16 in their last 46 games, including wins in nine of 13, following an MLB-worst 5-15 (.250) stretch from 7/1-26…the Rays are 2.5 games back of the first-place Orioles in the AL East and currently occupy the AL’s first Wild Card spot, leading Toronto by 8.5 games and Seattle/Texas by 9.5 games…they have spent a total of 114 days in first place in the division, surpassing the 2008 Rays (113) for the most in a season in club history. The Rays clinched their ninth postseason berth in club history on Sunday and became the eighth team in the Wild Card era (since 1995) to make the Postseason in five consecutive seasons at least once, joining the Braves (2x: 1995-2005; 2018-23), Yankees (2x: 1995-2007; 2017-22), Astros (2017-22), Dodgers (2013-23), Cardinals (2011-15), Guardians (1995-99) and Phillies (2007-11). If the postseason began today, the Rays would host the Blue Jays in a best-of-three Wild Card series at Tropicana Field, with the winner advancing to play the Orioles in a best-of-five ALDS. Ê The Rays own the best record in the majors since 8/16 at 20-9 (.690), outpacing the Orioles (20-10, .667)…their 30-16 (.652) mark since 7/28 is second best in the majors behind Baltimore (32-16, .667). Tampa Bay is 32-16 (.667) in series openers, the second-best mark in the majors behind Atlanta, Baltimore and Los Angeles-NL (all 33-16, .673).

CASH MONEY — According to Elias, Kevin Cash, 45, is the youngest manager in MLB history to reach the postseason in five consecutive seasons, ahead of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who was 48 years old when he clinched his fifth straight postseason berth with Los Angeles-NL in 2020. Cash has guided the Rays to a 732-613 (.544) record since taking over as manager in 2015, the fifth-best team winning pct. in the majors during that span behind the Dodgers (837-507, .623), Astros (795-550, .591) Yankees (765-579, .569) and Guardians (740-603, .551).

ROOKIE FEATS — Taj Bradley has struck out 118 batters in his first 19 career starts, the most punchouts by a Rays rookie through their first 19 career starts in club history, ahead of Shane McClanahan (113SO) and Matt Moore (110SO). Bradley’s 29.4 strikeout rate would signal the single-season club record by a Rays rookie (min. 300BF), outpacing Shane McClanahan (27.3%) and Blake Snell (24.4%)…conversely, his 9.0 pct. walk rate is the highest since Snell in 2016 (12.7%)
under the same parameters. He is one of five pitchers since 2018 to strike out 7+ batters in nine of their first 19 career starts, joining CIN Nick Lodolo (10GS), NYM Kodai Senga (10GS), LAA Shohei Ohtani (9GS) and AZ Zac Gallen (9GS)…with 7+ strikeouts tonight, he would join Lodolo (10GS) and Senga (10GS) as the only pitchers since 2018 to accomplish the feat in 10 of his first 20 career starts.

YANDY MAN CAN — Yandy Díaz ranks among AL leaders in AVG (2nd, .319), on-base pct. (2nd, .398), OPS (3rd, .901), hits (5th, 160), slugging pct. (6th, .503) and runs (8th, 89). His .319 batting average is the third highest through 151 games in franchise history, trailing Aubrey Huff (.328, 2002) and Jason Bartlett (.322, 2009), while his .398 OBP is fifth highest (leader – Fred McGriff: .409 OBP, 1999). His 17 games with 3+ hits pace all AL batters, ahead of TEX Corey Seager (16G) and KC Bobby Witt Jr. (15G)…the 17 games with 3+ hits are the most by a Rays batter since Carl Crawford had 18 in 2010. His 49 multi-hit games overall are tied with TEX Marcus Semien for second most in the AL, trailing SEA Julio Rodríguez (54G)…the 49 games are the most in a single season by a Rays batter since Corey Dickerson had 51 in 2017.

FRIENDLY CONFINES — Tampa Bays owns an MLB-best 50-25 (.667) record at home, ahead of Los Angeles-NL (49-26, .653) and Atlanta (47-26, .644)…the Rays are on pace for 54 home victories, which would mark their second most in club history behind the 2008 squad (57-24)…with wins in three of their next six games, the 2023 club will take sole possession of the second-most home wins in franchise history, ahead of the 2009 and 2021 Rays (both 52-29). Tampa Bay is 12-4 in its last 16 home games since 8/11 after going 5-12 at Tropicana Field from 6/24-8/10. Since becoming the Rays in 2008, Tampa Bay is 730-511 (.588) at home, the thirdbest mark in the majors during that span behind Los Angeles-NL (776-464, .626) and New York-AL (767-473, .619).

LEFT SIDE, STRONG SIDE! —Tampa Bay is an MLB-best 21-8 (.724) against left-handed starting pitchers this season. Min. 100 AB, Harold Ramírez is batting an AL-best .375 (39-for-104) vs. southpaws, trailing only ATL Ozzie Albies (.385) for the MLB lead…under the same parameters, his .375 AVG vs. lefties would be the third-best mark in a single season in team history behind Jason Bartlett (.379 in 2008) and Jeff Keppinger (.376 in 2012). Yandy Díaz is batting .455 (10-for-22) with four doubles, 3 HR, 10 RBI and two walks against two strikeouts vs. left-handers since 8/22.

CLOSE SHAVES — Of Tampa Bay’s 59 losses, 35 have been by two runs or fewer, including 25 losses by one run…the 25 such losses are tied for fifth most in the majors behind Cleveland (29), Oakland (27), Chicago-AL (26) and Cincinnati (26). \In contrast, Tampa Bay’s 61 wins by 3+ runs rank second in the majors behind only Los Angeles-NL (67G)…Tampa Bay’s next win by 3+ runs will match the 2021 Rays for the most such victories in a single season in franchise history.

BACK TO BASICS — The Rays are batting .220 (13-for-59) with runners in scoring position over their last seven games since 9/11, including 0-for-7 on Sunday at Baltimore…in their previous seven games from 9/4-10, they hit .278 (15-for-54). Tampa Bay’s .282 RISP average ranks second in the majors, trailing only Baltimore
(.287)…the Rays .266 batting average with RISP/2 outs leads MLB, ahead of Baltimore and Houston (both .265). The 2023 club’s .282 RISP average is second highest in a single season in team history, trailing the 2005 Devils Rays (.285). Tampa Bay has MLB’s two best hitters with runners in scoring position since 7/28 (min. 25AB)…Brandon Lowe’s .500 (16-for-32) RISP AVG paces the majors, while Yandy Díaz is second with a .448 (13-for-29) mark, ahead of MIL William Contreras (.447).

COAST TO COAST — Tampa Bay and Los Angeles-AL kick off a three-game set tonight at Tropicana Field…the Rays took two of three in Los Angeles from 8/18-19, producing 33 runs on 42 hits during the three-game series…the Rays collected season highs in runs (18) and hits (19) in game two of the doubleheader on 8/19. The Rays are 27-11 (.711) against the Angels since the beginning of 2017, their best mark against any AL opponent in that span, ahead of Detroit (26-13, .667).


TONIGHT’S START — The rookie makes his 20th major league start of the season and ninth at home…is searching for his first major league win since 6/21…the Rays have won each of his last three starts since his 9/3 recall from Triple-A Durham, with Bradley posting a 5.06 ERA (16.0IP, 9ER) in those games…his 29.4 pct. strikeout rate leads AL rookies (min. 250BF).

LAST TIME OUT — Worked 4.2 frames in the Rays 5-4 rubber-game victory at Minnesota’s Target Field on 9/13 (4.2IP, 4H, 4ER, 3BB, 7SO, 2HR)… held the Twins hitless until yielding back-to-back solo homers to the 8-9 hole hitters to open the third inning…departed with a pair of Twins in scoring position and two outs in the fifth frame, but both baserunners came around to score following his exit…struck out Kyle Farmer on 16 pitches to open the fifth inning, the most pitches thrown by a Rays hurler in a single plate appearance since at least 2004, according to Elias.

HALO HAPPENINGS — Bradley will be making his first career start against the Angels…he is 1-3 with a 7.26 ERA (31.0IP, 25ER) in seven starts opposite AL West clubs this season, marking his most starts and highest ERA against any division (min. 2GS)…this includes an 8.38 ERA (9.2IP, 9ER) over his last two outings (7/29 at HOU, 9/8 vs. SEA).

STRIKEOUT SAVANT — Bradley’s 118 punchouts are the most by a Rays rookie in his first 19 career starts in club history, outpacing Shane McClanahan (113SO, 2021)…marks the fourth most strikeouts through any pitcher’s first 19 starts with Tampa Bay, trailing Charlie Morton (142SO, 2019), Drew Smyly (121SO, 2014-15) and Tyler Glasnow (119SO, 2018-19). Bradley’s 29.4 pct. strikeout rate is fifth highest among AL starters (min. 15GS) behind teammate Tyler Glasnow (32.8%), LAA Shohei Ohtani (31.5%), TOR Kevin Gausman (31.1%) and BOS Chris Sale (29.8%)…it would mark the highest strikeout rate in a season by a rookie in Rays history (min. 300BF). His 118 strikeouts are tied with HOU Luis Garcia for the third most through an AL pitcher’s first 19 career starts over the last 10 seasons (since 2014), trailing NYY Masahiro Tanaka (139SO) and HOU Hunter Brown (122SO).

SWIPER NO SWIPING — According to Elias, Bradley is one of four pitchers in the expansion era (since 1961) to have zero stolen bases attempted against him through his first 19 career starts, joining Yordano Ventura (2013-14), Travis Wood (2010-11) and Randy Wolf (1999).

HOMER (UN)HAPPY — Bradley permitted only four homers in his first nine career starts from 4/12-6/15 — his 0.84 HR/9.0 IP in that span was 12th lowest in the AL (min. 40.0IP)…over his last 10 starts since 6/21, he has yielded 15 homers, good for 2.83 HR/9.0 IP, the second-highest mark in the majors over that span (min. 40.0IP) behind MIN Joe Ryan (2.86). He has held opponents to a .133 (4-for-30) clip with RISP over six starts since the All-Star break, but 10 of the 20 runs against him in that span have come via the eight homers he has allowed…on the season, 41.7 pct. (25 of 60) of the runs scored against Bradley have been plated on home runs. Walks have also plagued Bradley since his 9/3 return to the Rays… he has issued 10 walks in his last three starts, posting a 5.63 BB/9.0 IP in that span, second highest in the AL behind HOU J.P. France’s 7.04 (min. 15.0IP)…three of the 10 batters walked by Bradley in that timeframe have come around to score.

PLIGHT OF THE RIGHT — Right-handed batters are hitting .281 (48-for171) against Bradley and have hit 14 of the 19 homers he has allowed… righties have gone 5-for-38 (.132) with one home run against Bradley’s curveball/changeup compared to 43-for-133 (.323) with 13 homers against his fastballs (4-seamer/cutter).

YOUNG BLOOD — Bradley, 22, will become the third pitcher in Rays history (4th instance) to make 20+ starts in his age 22 or younger season, joining Scott Kazmir (32GS, 2005; 24GS, 2006) and Joe Kennedy (20GS, 2001)…the only AL pitchers to turn the trick over the last eight seasons (since 2016) are LAA Reid Detmers (25GS, 2022), LAA Jaime Barria (26GS, 2018) and KC Brad Keller (20GS, 2018). Bradley is the fifth-youngest pitcher to appear in a major league game this season, older than only MIA Eury Pérez (20), ATL AJ SmithShawver (20), SF Kyle Harrison (21) and AZ Justin Martínez (21)

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