Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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MLB Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates (20-10) at Tampa Bay Rays (24-6)

PITTSBURGH PIRATES NOTES:

THE PIRATES:…Dropped the first game of their three-game series last night against the Rays…Have won 10 of their last 13 games, outscoring their opponents by 50 runs (91-41) during the stretch…Won seven straight games from 4/17-23, their longest winning streak since 2018 (11 games)…Have lost back-to-back games for the first time since dropping the final two contests of their season-opening series in Cincinnati…Their 20-10 record is their best start since the 1992 team had a 21-9 record after the first 30 games.

SOUTHPAW SIGHTING: The Pirates have won each of the last six games started by opposing lefthanders dating back to April 13 against St. Louis’ Jordan Montgomery at Busch Stadium…Pittsburgh’s last loss in a game started by a lefty came on April 10 against Houston’s Framber Valdez…The Bucs have produced the fourth-highest OPS (.818), fifth-highest slugging percentage (.451) and sixth-highest batting average (.283) against left-handed pitchers in all of MLB.

LOVING LEFTIES: Connor Joe enters today with the seventh-highest OPS (1.315) against lefties in all of MLB…Joe’s .815 slugging percentage also ranks ninth in all of MLB against left-handed pitchers…Rodolfo Castro ranks eighth in all of MLB with a 1.248 OPS against southpaws while his .387 batting average ranks 11th in MLB…Carlos Santana’s .417 batting average against southpaws is tied for sixth in MLB.

TAKING A WALK: Last night Andrew McCutchen walked twice, giving him 701 in his career with the Pirates…He ranks seventh on the club’s all-time list with 701 free passes, trailing Hall-of-Famers Willie Stargell (937), Max Carey (919), Paul Waner (912), Honus Wagner (877), Ralph Kiner (795) and Arky Vaughan (779)…Stargell was the last Pittsburgh player to reach the 700-walk mark when he did so on August 8, 1975, at Houston…McCutchen enters tonight’s action in Tampa Bay with 999 career walks…He is currently fourth among active players in walks behind Joey Votto (1338), Miguel Cabrera (1230) and teammate Carlos Santana (1161).

ABOUT TONIGHT’S STARTER: Mitch Keller gets the start tonight in the second game of this series against the Rays…Keller allowed four earned runs in 4.2 innings while earning Opening Day honors on March 30 against the Reds…Beginning with his next outing on April 5, Keller’s 2.90 ERA (31.0ip/10er) is the seventh-lowest among all National League pitchers with at least 30.0 innings pitched.

THE EMERGENCE OF MITCH: Beginning with his start on August 30 of last year, Mitch Keller has recorded a 2.82 ERA (76.2ip/24er) and .221 batting average against in 13 starts…Keller’s 2.82 ERA in that time is the seventh-lowest in MLB among pitchers with at least 75.0 innings pitched behind Clayton Kershaw (1.71), Marcus Stroman (2.21), Zac Gallen (2.35), Gerrit Cole (2.71), Shane Bieber (2.73) and Julio Urias (2.76).

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: Bryan Reynolds has recorded an extra base hit in each of his last five games, going 9-for-17 with five doubles and four RBI during the stretch…The longest extra base hit streak in MLB this season belongs to Chicago’s Patrick Wisdom, who recorded an extra base hit in six straight games from April 14-19…Reynolds now has two separate streaks of recording an extra base hit in five straight games this season (he also did it from April 2-7)…The last Pirate to record an extra base hit in more than five straight games was Corey Dickerson (seven straight from April 5-13, 2018).

REYNOLDS ROLLING AGAIN: Bryan Reynolds has hit safely in each of his last seven games, going 12-for-24 with seven doubles, six RBI and a 1.340 OPS…It’s tied for the third-longest active streak among NL players along with New York’s Daniel Vogelbach… Arizona’s Corbin Carroll and San Francisco’s Lamonte Wade Jr. have the longest active NL streaks at eight games apiece.

THE OUTFIELD: Pittsburgh’s outfielders enter today with the third-highest OPS (.876) in all of MLB, trailing only the Red Sox (.920) and Cubs (.894)…Pittsburgh’s outfielders also have the second-highest slugging percentage (.523) in all of MLB, trailing only the Red Sox (.542).

PIRATING: The Pirates have recorded at least one stolen base in eight straight games, which is the longest streak in all of MLB this season…It’s the first time Pittsburgh has a stolen base in eight straight games since also doing so from August 5-12, 2014…The last time Pittsburgh had a stolen base in more than eight straight games was in 1998 (14 in a row from August 2-16).

PEN POWER: Pittsburgh’s bullpen has recorded a 1.38 ERA (32.2ip/5er) in the team’s last 10 games dating back to April 21…That’s the lowest ERA in all of MLB in that time (Houston is second with a 1.70 ERA)…Pittsburgh’s bullpen has produced the seventh-lowest ERA (3.02) in MLB this season, including second-lowest in the NL behind Milwaukee (2.91).

STARTING PITCHER – 23 – RHP MITCH KELLER
MITCH KELLER: The 27-year-old righthander will make his seventh start of the season tonight…Struck out a career-high tying 10 batters while winning a 6-2 decision (6.0ip/2er) in his last start Thursday against the Dodgers at PNC Park.

VS. TAMPA BAY: 0-0 in one start…He allowed three runs in 5.0 innings but had a no-decision in a 4-3, 10-inning walkoff loss at Tropicana Field on 6/24/22.

TAMPA BAY RAYS NOTES:

HEAVYWEIGHT MATCHUP — In a battle of the clubs with the two best records in the major leagues, the Rays downed the visiting Pirates, 4-1, in Tuesday night’s series opener at Tropicana Field…DH Harold Ramírez (2-for-3, HR, 2RBI, R, BB, SB) opened the scoring with a fourth-inning RBI-single before adding a lead-off solo homer in the sixth…SS Wander Franco (1-for-3, RBI, BB, SB) recorded a run-scoring single in the fifth.

RHP Javy Guerra (0.2IP, 2BB) made his first career start as an opener, facing four Pirates hitters before giving way to LHP Josh Fleming (3.1IP, 2H, ER, 3BB, SO), who departed in the fifth inning with a left foot contusion after being struck by a leadoff single…RHP Jason Adam (1.0IP, H, 3SO) struck out the side in the ninth inning for his first save since 9/3/22 vs. New York-AL.

CF Jose Siri (1-for-3, R, SB) swiped home in the fifth inning as part of a double-steal with Franco…including the Postseason, it marked the 15th steal of home in Rays history, and the first since Randy Arozarena in Game 1 of the 2021 ALDS vs. Boston.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS — Earlier today, the Rays acquired RHP Chase Anderson in a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for cash considerations and selected his contract to the major league roster…additionally, RHP Pete Fairbanks was placed on the 15-day injured list (retroactive to 4/30) with right forearm inflammation and RHP Zack Burdi was designated for assignment.

APRIL SHOWERS — The Rays 22 wins in April tied the franchise record for most victories in a single month (also: 22-6 in May 2021)…their +99 run differential (191-92) was the best in a calendar month in club history, and best by any MLB team since Oakland in September 2000 (+110)…per Elias, the Rays out-homered opponents 59-19 (+40) in April, the highest home run differential in a single month in MLB history, ahead of Toronto in May 2010 (+37, 54-17).

Tampa Bay’s 59 April homers were the most in a calendar month in franchise history, ahead of May 2017 (52HR), and marked the most by any major league club since New York-AL (74HR) and Minnesota (59HR) in August 2019.

Per STATS LLC, the Rays had four players hit 7+ homers in a month for the first time in club history (Randy Arozarena, Yandy Díaz, Brandon Lowe, Luke Raley), surpassing the previous mark of three players, done in August 2016 (Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Logan Forsythe).

Tampa Bay’s 191 runs scored were its most in a calendar month in franchise history, ahead of May 2009 (184R)…it marked the most runs in a month by any team since Houston in August 2019 (200R).

Randy Arozarena collected 35 hits in April, most by a Rays hitter in a single month since Tommy Pham in September 2018 (35H)…his 27 RBI were the most by a Ray since Austin Meadows in May 2021 (28RBI).

Wander Franco’s 16 extra-base hits in April were tied for second most in the majors and the most by a Rays hitter in a single month since Brandon Lowe in August 2021 (18XBH)…Franco’s 12 doubles in April ranked second in MLB and were the most by a Tampa Bay hitter in a month since Joey Wendle in September 2018 (14 2B).

MAY FLOWERS — All 29 of Tampa Bay’s games during the month of May are against clubs that currently have a record of .500 or better…Tampa Bay is 7-4 (.636) against teams that have a .500 or better record, the best winning pct. in MLB, ahead of Milwaukee (12-7, .632).

The Rays May opponents have a combined winning pct. of .592 (141-97)…Tampa Bay’s March/April opponents have combined for a .422 (100-137) winning pct.

MERRY-GO-ROUND — The Rays have hit a major league-best 62 home runs, the second-most long balls through a club’s first 30 games in MLB history (since 1901), trailing only the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals (65HR)…Tampa Bay has out-homered opponents, 62-19 (+43)…its 19 homers allowed are the fewest in the majors, ahead of Seattle (21HR).

The Rays homered in each of their first 22 games, the longest streak to open a season in MLB history…marked the longest home run streak at any point in a single season since the 2019 Houston Astros (25G, 9/1-29, 2019).

BAG BANDITS — The Rays have gone 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts in each of their last two games, their first time going 4-for-4 or better on steals in consecutive games since 6/7-8, 2007 — Tampa Bay has never turned the trick in three straight games…from the beginning of the season through 4/29, Tampa Bay’s 70.0 pct. stolen base success rate (21- for-30) was tied for 12th in the AL and tied for 26th in the majors.

The Rays have four players with 5+ stolen bases (Wander Franco, Josh Lowe Manuel Margot, Taylor Walls), second most in the majors behind Cleveland (5).

HOT AS A BLOWTORCH — Since batting .176 (3-for-17) in his first six games, Harold Ramírez has produced a .390/.463/.695 (23-for-59) clip with four doubles, a triple, 4 HR, 11 RBI and eight multi-hit efforts over his last 16 games since 4/9…during that span, he ranks among MLB leaders (min. 60PA) in average (3rd), OPS (3rd), SLG (6th) and OBP (7th).

LEADING THE PACK — The Rays pace the majors in runs scored (199) while surrendering the fewest runs (93)…Tampa Bay’s +106 run differential is the second-best mark through the first 30 games of a season in MLB history (since 1901), trailing only the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates (+112)…Tampa Bay is one of 19 teams since 1901 to score 199+ runs through its first 30 games, and first since the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals (199R).

ON THE MOUND — Tampa Bay’s 3.03 ERA is the best mark in the majors, ahead of Houston (3.11)…this includes the third-best starter ERA (3.20) and the third-best bullpen ERA (2.85)…Rays pitchers pace the majors in opponents’ OPS (.609), opponents’ average (.207), fewest pitches per IP (15.75) and WHIP (1.11)…Tampa Bay’s 93 runs allowed are its second-fewest through 30 games in club history, behind the 2010 Rays (90R).

This success comes despite the Rays using 22 different pitchers, tied with Seattle, Miami and Oakland for most in the majors.

IN THE BOX — Rays hitters lead MLB in OPS (.876), OBP (.352), SLG (.524), batting average (.280), hard hit pct. (44.7%), extra-base hits (123) and total bases (539)…the Rays have the majors’ fifth-lowest ground ball rate (40.1%) and fifth-highest fly ball rate (28.7%).

BUCS SAIL TO THE BAY — The Rays and Pirates meet this evening for the middle contest of a three-game series…marks the fourth series between the two clubs at Tropicana Field…the Rays are 6-4 against the Pirates at home, including five straight wins.

The Rays swept a three-game series from the Pirates last season at Tropicana Field from 6/24-26, 2022, including a pair of one-run wins…Tampa Bay leads the all-time series between the two clubs, 10-9, despite a -18 (84-102) run differential.

TONIGHT’S STARTER: LHP SHANE McCLANAHAN (5-0, 2.12)
SUGAR SHANE — The southpaw makes his seventh start tonight, including his fourth at Tropicana Field…will make his second career start against the Pirates…is looking to become the first Rays pitcher to begin a season 6-0 since Charlie Morton started the 2019 season 8-0.

CAN’T TOUCH THIS — McClanahan registered his first double-digit strikeout game of the season in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 win over Chicago-AL on 4/22 (6.0IP, 3H, 2ER, BB, 10SO, 2HR)…he induced a franchise-record 32 swings and misses in the outing, surpassing the previous mark of 27 (3x, last: Tyler Glasnow, 4/12/21 vs. TEX).

McClanahan tied the fifth most whiffs in an outing by any pitcher in MLB’s pitch-tracking era (since 2008)…his 65.3 pct. whiff rate (32 misses, 49 swings) was the highest by any pitcher in a single game in the pitch-tracking era (min. 25 swings)

SHIVER ME TIMBERS — In one career start against the Pirates on 6/26/22, McClanahan earned the victory after tossing 7.0 innings, allowing one run on four hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts.

The outing on 6/26/22 vs. Pittsburgh remains the only start of McClanahan’s career in which he recorded at least 10 strikeouts without issuing a walk.

In four career starts against NL Central opponents, McClanahan is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA (27.0IP, 3ER), striking out 36 batters against three walks while holding opponents to a .140 batting average (13-for-93).

ALL I DO IS WIN — McClanahan earned a win in each of his first four starts this season, becoming the third pitcher in Rays history to accomplish the feat, joining Matt Moore (5GS, 4/5-27/13) and Tyler Glasnow (4GS, 3/30- 4/16, 2019)…the streak marked his most consecutive starts with a win since a career-high-tying five-start run from 5/17-6/9, 2022.

With a win tonight, McClanahan can match the longest winning streak of his career…he won six straight games from 5/5-6/9, 2022.

Entering tonight, McClanahan’s five wins are tied for the most in the majors with New York-AL’s Gerrit Cole, Los Angeles-NL’s Clayton Kershaw and Minnesota’s Joe Ryan.

WHIFF YOU PLEASE — McClanahan’s 38.7 pct. whiff rate is second in the majors behind only TEX Jacob DeGrom (43.5%), while his 30.9 pct. strikeout rate ranks fifth…opponents are swinging at 37.2 pct. of his pitches outside of the strike zone, the sixth-highest chase rate in baseball… McClanahan has also been effective on pitches inside the zone, recording the second-highest in-zone whiff pct. in MLB (27.3%), trailing only ATL Spencer Strider (29.5%).

He has produced a 54.7 pct. whiff rate on his changeup, seventh-highest of any pitch in MLB (min. 25PA ending w/ pitch), behind BAL Felix Bautista’s splitter (63.4%), CIN Alex Young’s changeup (58.2%), PHI Gregory Soto’s slider (57.9%), HOU Rionel Blanco’s slider (61.9%), SEA Matt Brash’s slider (57.1%) and CHC Mark Leiter Jr.’s splitter (56.1%).

WE’VE GOT YOUR BACK — McClanahan’s 9.79 runs of support lead the majors ahead of LAA Patrick Sandoval (9.68), BOS Tanner Houck (9.68) and MIN Joe Ryan (9.56)…in his career, the Rays are 28-3 when providing him with three-or-more runs of support (5-0 in 2023), compared to 8-20 with two-or-fewer runs of support.

FULL SPEED AHEAD — McClanahan’s four-seam fastball has clocked in at an average velocity of 97.2 mph this season, second-fastest among AL starting pitchers’ fastballs behind TEX Jacob DeGrom (97.8 mph) and fifth-fastest among MLB starters (min. 500 FB thrown)…since breaking into the majors in 2021, his 97.1 mph average velocity on fastballs is seventh-fastest in MLB, including third among southpaws (min. 1,500 FB thrown) behind only José Alvarado (99.1 mph) and Gregory Soto (98.2 mph).

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