TAMPA BAY RAYS NOTES:
RAY REPORT — Tampa Bay continues a seven-day, seven-game road trip through Minnesota and Baltimore tonight, with both opponents currently leading their respective divisions…the Rays are 27-13 in their last 40 games, including wins in 15 of 20, 17 of 23 and 20 of their last 28, following an MLB-worst 5-15 (.250) stretch from 7/1-26… the Rays, who are seeking a fifth consecutive postseason berth, currently occupy the first AL Wild Card spot, leading Toronto by 8.5 games and Texas by 9.0 games…with 17 games remaining, Tampa Bay is 3.0 games behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East despite improving to a season-best 33 games above .500 yesterday. Tampa Bay has won five straight games against Minnesota dating back to 6/12/22… it is tied for the second-longest winning streak over the Twins in franchise history (also 5G: 6/19-9/4, 1999 and 8/10-17, 2001)…the Rays won a franchise-best 11 consecutive games over the Twins from 4/21/12-9/14/13. With a win tonight, Tampa Bay can secure its ninth 90+ win season in club history, including their fourth since Kevin Cash took the helm in 2015 (2018-19, 2021). According to MLB, the Rays magic number to clinch a postseason berth is currently at six games…a team’s magic number represents the combination of wins needed by that team and losses by its closest competitor to clinch either its division or a Wild Card berth. Tampa Bay has scored 6+ runs in four straight games, tied for its second-longest such streak of the season (also 5/13-17)…the Rays longest such streak of the season was six games (2x: 4/3-9 and 8/16-23). Tonight’s contest marks the Rays 12th of 17 consecutive games to open September before their first of three off days during the month (9/18, 9/25, 9/28).
RECENT TRANSACTIONS — Prior to tonight’s game, Tampa Bay placed OF Jose Siri on the 10-day injured list and recalled INF Curtis Mead from Triple-A Durham…after being optioned to Durham on 8/24, Mead hit .304 (17-for-56) with five doubles, 6 HR, 17 RBI and eight walks against nine strikeouts across 15 games for the Bulls.
YANDY MAN CAN — Yandy Díaz recorded a career-high-tying four hits in last night’s win, marking his third game this season with 4+ hits (6/25 vs. KC and 8/8 vs. STL)…it marks the third straight season a Rays batter has had 3+ games with 4+ hits, following Randy Arozarena (4G in 2022) and Joey Wendle (3G in 2021)…prior to Wendle, the last Ray to have 3+ games with 4+ hits in a season was Mallex Smith (3G in 2018). His 17 games with 3+ hits pace all AL batters, while his 48 multi-hit games overall are tied with TEX Marcus Semien and BOS Masataka Yoshida for second most in the AL. The 48 multi-hit performances are the most in a single season by a Rays batter since Corey Dickerson had 51 multi-hit games in 2017. He has eight hits in his last three games, tied for his most base knocks in a three-game stretch of his career (5x, last: 8/11-13, 2023).
J-LOWE SHOW — Josh Lowe has recorded consecutive three-hit games for the first time in his career…over his last 22 games since 8/16, Lowe is batting .359 (28-for-78) with five doubles, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 12 runs and five steals…his .359 AVG during that span ranks fourth in the AL behind SEA Julio Rodríguez (.443), HOU Yordan Alvarez (.375) and HOU Alex Bregman (.364). Having already recorded 18 HR and 29 SB this season, Lowe can become the third Ray (fourth instance) in team history to reach the 20HR/30SB club, joining Randy Arozarena (2022) and B.J. Upton (2011, 2012).
PEN PALS — The Rays bullpen has posted an MLB-leading 1.04 ERA (52.0IP, 6ER) over its last 15 games since 8/26, ahead of the Dodgers (2.43)…Tampa Bay relievers have not allowed an earned run in their last 24.2 innings dating back to the ninth frame on 9/4 vs. Boston…the bullpen posted a 19.0 scoreless inning streak from 8/25-9/2. Robert Stephenson has a 10.2 scoreless inning streak, striking out 20 of the 35 batters he has faced (57.1%) during that span…Jake Diekman is also riding a 0.2 scoreless inning streak. Pete Fairbanks has a 0.71 ERA (12.2IP, 1ER) in his last 13 games, striking out 24 of the 49 batters he has faced during that span (49.0%)…Shawn Armstrong has not permitted an earned run in his last 11 outings spanning 15.1 innings, posting a 0.72 WHIP over that stretch. The Rays 64-6 (.914) record when leading after six innings is fifth best in the majors, while their 67-3 (.957) mark when leading after seven is second best behind the Red Sox (61-2, .968).
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING — The Rays pace the AL in stolen bases (154SB) while their 208 HR are second most behind the Angels (209HR)…they are attempting to become the
fifth team to lead the AL in both categories, joining New York-AL in 1931, 1933 and 1938 and Cleveland in 1995 (Elias)…the 208 homers are their most through 145 games in club history, outpacing the 2017 club (204HR), while the 154 steals are third most behind the 2009 (175SB) and 2010 Rays (160SB)…they are 20 homers shy of matching the 2017 Rays (228HR) for the club single-season record.
CLUTCH TIME — Tampa Bay is batting .285 with RISP this season, the second-best mark in the majors behind Baltimore (.289)…however, the Rays lead MLB with a .271 RISP/2 out AVG, ahead of the Astros (.266) and the Orioles (.265). Tampa Bay’s .285 RISP AVG and .271 RISP/2 out AVG would both match single-season club records, as the 2005 Devil Rays posted identical figures in both categories.
FAMILIAR FACE—Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli spent four seasons on Tampa Bay’s coaching staff, including stints as Major League Field Coordinator (2018) and First base Coach (2015-2017)…he was 33 years old when named First Base Coach on 12/19/14 and still remains the youngest coach in Rays history, supplanting Billy Hatcher, who was 37 years old as the first base coach for the inaugural Devil Rays in 1998. Selected by the Rays in the first round (No. 6 overall) of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, Baldelli played parts of six seasons with Tampa Bay (2003-04, 2006-08, 2010) and ranks all-time among Rays batters in slugging pct. (T7th, .444), triples (9th, 17) and batting avg. (9th, .280).
TWIN CITIES CLASH — Tampa Bay and Minnesota continue a six-game season series tonight at Target Field…the Rays swept the Twins in a three-game set at Tropicana Field from 6/6-8, outscoring Minnesota 13-3 (+10). Luke Raley was acquired by Minnesota on 7/31/18, along with INF Logan Forsythe and LHP Devin Smeltzer, in exchange for INF Brian Dozier…Raley was traded back to the Dodgers on 2/10/20 in a trade involving RHP Kenta Maeda.
TONIGHT’S STARTER: RHP ZACK LITTELL (3-5, 4.29)
TONIGHT’S START — The sixth-year veteran makes his 12th start/25th appearance tonight, including his seventh start/14th outing on the road… this marks his 10th “true” start of the season after serving in an opener/ relief capacity to begin the year…has gone 3-4 with a 3.63 ERA (52.0IP, 21ER) in 10 appearances (9GS) since the All-Star break, striking out 37 hitters while issuing just four walks.
LAST TIME OUT — Permitted one run over a career-high 8.0 frames, but shouldered the loss in a 1-0 home defeat to the Mariners on 9/7 (8.0IP, 5H, ER, BB, 4SO)…he retired 19 of the final 20 batters he faced…it marked the longest start by a Rays pitcher since Drew Rasumssen (8.1IP) on 8/14/22 vs. Baltimore…he became the second Rays pitcher (third instance) to take a loss despite allowing one run over 8.0+ innings, joining James Shields (2x, last: 10/2/12 vs. BAL – 9.0IP, 1R).
BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN — Littell will be making his first career start opposite Minnesota…he made a pair of scoreless relief appearances against the Twins from 8/26/27, 2022 at Target Field during his stint with San Francisco, totaling 2.0 frames…the right-hander began his major league career with the Twins from 2018-20 after being acquired from the Yankees at the trade deadline in 2017…went 6-2 with a 4.52 ERA in 43 games (2GS) with Minnesota. Littell is 6-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 32 career appearances (4GS) against AL Central clubs, including a 2.70 ERA (43.1IP, 13ER) in his last 27 outings…has recorded a 3.38 ERA (13.1IP, 5ER) in three starts
against the division this season.
NO FREE RIDES — In 16 appearances spanning 62.2 innings dating back to 6/21, Littell has walked just four batters…his 0.57 BB/9.0 IP during that span is the second-lowest mark in the majors (min. 50.0IP) behind former Ray LAD Ryan Yarbrough (0.53)…over that timeframe, Littell has thrown 68.9 pct. of his pitches for strikes, the fourth-highest percentage in the AL (min. 500 pitches thrown). In two starts during September, Littell has registered a 78.8 pct. first-pitch strike percentage, the second-highest mark in the majors this month (min. 40BF) behind CIN Lyon Richardson (80.0%). His 3.0 pct. walk rate is second lowest in MLB (min. 250BF) behind
SEA George Kirby (2.4%)…prior to this season, his lowest walk rate in a season was 6.2 pct. in 2019.
REVERSE, REVERSE — Littell has limited left-handed batters to a .231 (31- for-134) average, compared to a .305 (46-for-151) mark against right-handed hitters…for his career, he has held lefties to a .251 average compared to a .267 clip against righties. Littell’s splits have evened out in recent outings…over his last three
starts, both lefties (8-for-32) and righties (10-for-40) are batting .250 against him.
ODDS AND ENDS — He is 3-4 with a 3.83 ERA (54.0IP, 23ER) in 11 starts this season and 0-1 with a 5.71 ERA (17.1IP, 11ER) in 13 relief appearances…in 38 career appearances (3GS) during the month of September, Littell is 9-2 with a 3.45 ERA (60.0IP, 23ER)…for his career, he is 12-4 with a 3.24 ERA (122.1IP, 44ER) in 70 games (8GS) after the calendar flips to August compared to 4-6 with a 5.08 ERA (118.2IP, 67ER) in 99 outings (7GS) from March-July. Before tossing 8.0 innings of one-run ball in his most recent start on 9/7 vs. Seattle, Littell had pitched to a 6.75 ERA (16.0IP, 12ER) in his previous three outings from 8/22-9/2. Littell has received 8.78 runs of support per 9.0 IP in his six road starts compared to a 3.95 RSA in his five starts at Tropicana Field. He has limited opponents to a .115 (3-for-26) average with runners in scoring position and two outs.
SEASON RUNDOWN — Littell signed a minor league contract with Texas on 2/3 and was a non-roster invitee to Rangers Spring Training before opening the season with Triple-A Round Rock, going 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA (12.0IP, 3ER) in eight relief outings…was dealt to Boston in exchange for cash considerations on 5/5…after pitching in two games for the Red Sox, he was designated for assignment on 5/10 before being claimed by the Rays off waivers on 5/12…was on the 15-day injured list from 5/24-6/13 with
MINNESOTA TWINS NOTES:
THE TWINS: Have gone 2-2 through four games on their current six-game homestand, winning a three-game series against the Mets over the weekend, followed by a loss to the Rays last night…tonight, Minnesota will play the second of three against Tampa Bay then play the series finale tomorrow afternoon…after tomorrow’s game, Minnesota will travel to Chicago to begin a seven-game roadtrip with four games against the White Sox from Thursday-Sunday, then play three games at Cincinnati from September 18-20…the Twins have gone 42-31 at home and 33-38 on the road. The Twins have gone 16-9 in 25 home games since the All-Star break for a .640 winning percentage, second best in the AL in that span, trailing just Baltimore (.680 — 17-8).
TAMPA BAY CONTINUES DOMINANCE OVER MINNESOTA: The Twins lost to the Rays last night at Target Field by a score of 7-4…Sonny Gray was the starter but did not factor into the decision, allowing two runs (1 earned) on six hits in 4.0 innings pitched, throwing 89 pitches…the offense recorded six hits, two from Max Kepler, who singled and homered…for Kepler it was his 22nd of the season, breaking a tie with Joey Gallo (21) for team lead…Royce Lewis also homered, hitting a three-run shot in the sixth inning, his 12th of the season.
RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW: Despite the Twins loss last night, their magic number moved down to 11 after a Guardians loss to San Francisco…they enter today at 75-69 with a 7.5 game lead on Cleveland, who sit at 68-77…below is a brief look at Minnesota and Cleveland:
W-L GB YESTERDAY RESULT TODAY NEXT SERIES
Minnesota 75-69 – – Lost 4-7 to TB vs. TB (Ryan vs. Littell) 4 at CWS (9/14-17)
Cleveland 68-77 7.5 Lost 4-5 at SF at SF (Quantrill vs. Manaea) 3 vs. TEX (9/15-17)
NOTE: Cleveland has gone 2-7 in their last nine games and 23-32 since the All-Star break, while Minnesota has gone 6-4 in their last 10 and 30-23 since the break.
20-DAY FORECAST: Of the 18 remaining games, the Twins have an opponent winning percentage of .429, the second-lowest strength of schedule in baseball (San Diego – .425)…Tampa Bay (89-56) and Cincinnati (74-71) are the only remaining teams on the schedule with a winning record…Twins also will play Chicago-AL (55-88), Los Angeles-AL (68-77), Oakland (45-99) and Colorado (51-92).
RAY MATTER: The Twins are playing the Rays for the fifth of six times in 2023…the Twins were swept in three games at Tropicana Field from June 6-8 and lost the series opener last night. The Twins are looking to snap a five-game losing streak to the Rays and win over Tampa Bay for the first time since June 11, 2022…it marks their longest losing streak to the Rays since dropping 11-straight from April 21, 2012-September 14, 2013. The Twins are 7-4 in their last 11 games against the Rays at Target Field. Carlos Correa is hitting .287 (35-for-122) with eight doubles, six home runs, 15 RBI and an .836 OPS in 32 career regular season games against the Rays…he has hit safely in eight of his last 10 against Tampa, batting .400 (16-for-40) with eight RBI and a 1.104 OPS in that span. Since the start of 2019, Max Kepler is hitting .295 (13-for-44) with five doubles, three home runs, seven RBI, 10 walks, a .426 on-base percentage, a .614 slugging percentage and a 1.040 OPS in 14 games against the Rays.
JOE COOL: Joe Ryan was selected by the Rays in the seventh round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft and spent parts of four seasons in Tampa Bay’s minor league system…the Twins acquired Ryan along with right-handed pitcher Drew Strotman a little over a week before the trade deadline in 2021 (July 22), in exchange for Nelson Cruz and right-handed pitcher Calvin Faucher…at the time of the trade, Ryan was in Tokyo, Japan, participating in the delayed 2020 Olympics as a member of the silver medal winning United States Baseball Team.
MAKING A TARGET RUN: The Twins have gone 21-12 at home since June 21, tied with Baltimore (21-13 — .618) and Texas (18-13 — .581) for the most wins in the AL since that date…their .636 home winning percentage in that span leads the AL. They are 42-31 at home this season, the sixth-most wins during the Target Field era (since
2010)…they have eight home games remaining…their top five win totals at Target Field are 53-28 in 2010, 49-32 in 2018, and 46-35 in 2022, ’19 and ’15.
STRIKING SUCCESS: Twins pitchers enter today with 1,351 strikeouts on the season, third most in Twins/Senators franchise history (since 1901)…they are on pace to strike out 1,519 hitters this season…the starters have struck out an MLB-best 858 batters and are on pace to strike out 965 hitters this season…below are the pitching staff rankings (left) and starting staff rankings (right) in Twins history:
1) 2019 ………………………………………….1,463 1) 1967…………………………………………….. 870
2) 2018 ………………………………………….1,377 2) 2023…………………………………………….. 858
3) 2023 ………………………………………….1,351 3) 2019…………………………………………….. 844
4) 2022 ………………………………………….1,336 4) 1964…………………………………………….. 777
5) 2021 ………………………………………….1,317 5) 1968…………………………………………….. 762
KEPLER KEEPS ON KRUSHING: Since the All-Star break, Max Kepler is hitting .300 (54-for-180) with 15 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 27 RBI, 18 walks, a .365 on-base percentage, a .561 slugging percentage and a .926 OPS in 51 games (Twins 29-22 in those games). Among all AL qualified players since the break, he ranks 13th in OPS, 14th in slugging percentage, 15th in batting average and 16th in total bases (101).
ROYCE ROLLS: Royce Lewis has reached base safely in 10-straight games, one short of his career-high of 11, done from June 15-27…during the current streak, he is hitting .333 (13- for-39) with 15 RBI, a .395 on-base percentage, a .615 slugging percentage and a 1.011 OPS. Since August 23, his 27 RBI are the most in baseball…additionally, his eight home runs since that date are tied for fourth-most in baseball with Ronald Acuña Jr., trailing Trea Turner (11), Kyle Schwarber (10) and Julio Rodríguez (9). Among all MLB rookies with a minimum of 200 plate appearances, Lewis ranks first in batting average (.312), wOBA (.387), OPS (.902), OPS+ (145.5), slugging percentage (.540) and at-bats-per-RBI (4.30).
BARRELS OF FUN: Since August 1, Donovan Solano is hitting .353 (36-for-102) with five doubles, one triple, one home run, 15 RBI, a .400 on-base percentage and an .851 OPS in 29 games…in that span he has multiple hits 11 times…since August 1, his .353 batting average is tied for fourth best in baseball (minimum of 90 plate appearances) with Freddie Freeman, trailing Mookie Betts (.413), Julio Rodríguez (.387) and Davis Schneider (.364).
STARTING PITCHER – #41 JOE RYAN
2023: 10-9, 4.21 ERA CAREER: 25-18, 3.89 ERA
Making his 26th start and appearance of 2023 and his 13th home start of the year…also his 58th career start and appearance.
Facing Tampa Bay for the first time in his career…was drafted by the Rays in the seventh round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of California State University, Stanislaus.
Acquired by the Twins on July 22, 2021 from the Rays, alongside right-handed pitcher Drew Strot- man, in exchange for designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
LAST TIME OUT: Took the loss on September 6 at Cleveland, a 2-1 Twins’ defeat…allowed two runs on four hits in 4.0 innings pitched, with one walk and three strikeouts on 89 pitches…yielded an RBI single to Will Brennan in the bottom of the second inning…recorded two outs in the third before a 66-minute rain delay interrupted the game…came back after the delay and allowed one run (Brennan RBI double in the fourth) in 1.1 innings pitched before being relieved by Louie Varland in the fifth… Twins were limited to two hits and failed to sweep the three-game series. Allowed multiple stolen bases for the second time this year (also, 2 SB on July 3 vs. Kansas City) and third time in career…his single-game career high is three stolen bases allowed in the second game of a doubleheader on September 7, 2022 at New York-AL. Did not allow a home run for the first time in his last 10 starts, snapping the longest streak of his career of allowing at least one homer (19 HR in 9-game stretch).
TWO STARTS AGO: Earned his 10th win of the season in the Twins’ 5-1 victory on September 1 at Texas… pitched 6.0 innings and allowed one run on three hits (1 HR), with no walks and seven strikeouts on a season-low 74 pitches…held the Rangers to one hit through 3.0 innings before yielding a solo homer to Corey Seager to lead off the fourth…retired eight of the final 10 batters he faced and was relieved by Griffin Jax to begin the bottom of the seventh…Minnesota won the three-game series opener. Became first Twins pitcher to win 10 games in back-to-back seasons since José Berríos and Kyle Gibson both did it from 2018-19.
RAYS DEBUT: Facing Tampa Bay for the first time in his career…was drafted by the Rays in the seventh round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of California State University, Stanislaus…pitched for five different Tampa Bay affiliates across three seasons from 2018-21 (no MiLB season in 2020), going 15-8, 2.78 ERA (217.0 IP, 67 ER) in 48 games (40 starts)…was traded to Minnesota alongside right-handed pitcher Drew Strotman on July 22, 2021, in exchange for designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Tampa Bay will be the 22nd team he has faced in his career…is 5-9, 5.80 ERA (104.0 IP, 67 ER) with 40 walks and 96 strikeouts in 21 previous starts when facing a new opponent.
AL EAST BEAST: In 11 career starts against the American League East, Ryan is 5-3, 3.55 ERA (66.0 IP, 26 ER) with 11 walks and 71 strikeouts…seven of his 11 starts against the AL East have been quality, and the Twins own an 8-3 record when he pitches against the division…two of his five career starts with 10-or-more strikeouts have come against AL East teams (April 13, 2023 at New York-AL — 10 K; July 9, 2023 vs. Baltimore — 10 K)…threw his first career complete-game shutout on June 22 vs. Boston (9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K). Owns a .217 (54-for-249) career opponent batting average vs. the AL East, the lowest by a Twins pitcher against the division since it was formed in 1969 (min. 10 GS).
TARGET PRACTICE: Making his 13th home start of the season…is 6-4, 3.77 ERA (71.2 IP, 30 ER) with 13 walks and 94 strikeouts in 12 previous starts at home…has recorded five quality starts at Target Field, with the Twins going 4-1 in those starts (only loss was on June 4 vs. Cleveland – 2-1)…is 4-5, 4.67 ERA (69.1 IP, 36 ER) with eight quality starts, 15 walks and 75 strikeouts in 13 road starts this year. In 30 career home starts, he is 13-9, 3.61 ERA (169.1 IP, 68 ER) with 46 walks and 199 strikeouts… among pitchers with at least 10 career starts at Target Field, Ryan’s 10.58 strikeouts-per-9.0 innings ratio ranks fourth all-time, behind BOS’s Chris Sale (11.65), teammate Pablo López (11.25) and CLE’s Lucas Giolito (10.59). Is 12-9, 4.21 ERA (145.1 IP, 68 ER) with 34 walks and 151 strikeouts in 27 career road starts.
LEFT/RIGHT: Left-handed hitters are batting .221 (56-for-253) with a .648 OPS and 64 strikeouts against Ryan this year, going 4-for-9 with two doubles and one walk against him in his last start on September 6 at Cleveland…right-handed hitters are batting .256 (74-for-289) with a .779 OPS and 105 strikeouts against Ryan in 2023, going 0-for-7 with three strikeouts against him in his last outing. AOver his career, lefties are batting .206 (117-for-567) with a .638 OPS against him…righties are hitting .234 (144-for-616) with a .719 OPS off Ryan in his career.
THE ARSENAL: Has utilized a four-pitch mix in his first 25 starts of the 2023 season…has leaned on his four-seam fastball and split finger, combining to throw the two pitches 84.9 percent of the time this year…ranks third in baseball in strikeouts with his four-seam fastball (99), trailing only NYY’s Gerrit Cole (116) and ATL’s Spencer Strider (108)…here’s a look at Ryan’s repertoire, per Baseball Savant:
PITCH (AVG. MPH) PCT. (# OF PITCHES, VS. RHB/LHB) RESULTS
4-Seam Fastball (92.4)………..57.4% (1,328 pitches, 706/622).. .239 (70-for-293), 13 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 99 K
Split Finger (83.7)………………27.5% (637 pitches, 250/387)….. .217 (39-for-180), 7 2B, 7 HR, 41 K
Sweeper (79.2)……………………11.2% (260 pitches, 186/74)……. .280 (14-for-50), 1 2B, 3 HR, 22 K
Slider (82.7)………………………….3.9% (90 pitches, 70/20)………….. .389 (7-for-18), 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 K
SPECIAL K: Has recorded 350 career strikeouts through his first 57 games, the most in Twins’ history (1961-) through a pitcher’s first 57 career games…would also hold the record through a pitcher’s first 63 career games, one ahead of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven (349 from 1970-71)…his 10.01 strikeouts-per-9.0 innings ratio in his career is the fourth best in Twins’ history, and his 4.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks eighth (min. 200.0 IP).
SEPTEMBER STAR: Making his 13th career start in September today, his most in any month in his career…is 6-3, 3.03 ERA (65.1 IP, 22 ER) with 18 walks, 70 strikeouts and a .166 (38-for-229) opponent batting average in 12 previous September starts…his .166 opponent batting average in September is the lowest in baseball since 2021 (min. 10 September GS).