RECORDS: Cubs 83-66 Rays 73-77
GAMETIMES: Tuesday and Wednesday 6:10pm
TV: CSN Tuesday, WGN Wednesday
THEY DON’T GO EITHER: D-Rays Bay
The new-fangled system of interleague play will occasionally throw up this kind of weirdness, where the Cubs decamp to Florida for just two days to play what feels like a very random series against the Rays. It feels even more random as it comes smack dab in the middle of NL Central haggling between the Brewers, Cubs, and Cardinals. Had the Cubs played all year like we expected, this would be a mere formality. As it stands, it’s more annoyance, especially as the Cubs will see two of the Rays’ best starters.
The Rays have fallen out of contention for either the AL East or wild card, as they simply couldn’t hit quite enough homers to make up for their low OBP ways. While they’re sixth in the AL in homers, they’re last in runs because a bunch of solo homers don’t really get you anywhere. The Rays can boast four 25+ homer guys (if you count Lucas Duda), and Longoria could get over 20 by season’s end. But they don’t boast any player with an OBP over .350 and only two with ones over .340. Only Souza and Morrison get on-base at what you would even consider an above-average rate. Longoria has seen a power drop from last year and he really hasn’t been a high-OBP guy in a few years. He’s not going to binge on average so his value as a player is really dropping. He won’t even be a 3-WAR player this year.
If the lineup had held up its part of the bargain, the rotation might have been good enough to stick with the Yankees and Red Sox, or at least finish out the year in the AL Wild Card muddle. Archer we covered earlier today, but he’s having his best strikeout-year of his career. Though Alex Cobb doesn’t strike out many, he doesn’t walk many and has held his homers down to be effective again. Blake Snell, whom the Cubs will also see, has had walk troubles but has been ok as well. It’s not great, but it could have been enough. Could have.
The pen was also good if not great, though Kevin Cash has had some issues when to deploy them and riding his starters a bit hard at times. Alex Colome has 45 saves, if that does anything for you, though he does it through soft contact more than blowing people away. Tommy Hunter has been a real weapon, with over a 4-to-1 K/BB rate. Again, not a real weapon of mass destruction but had the offense done more and had one or two more things broke the Rays way, it could have been more.
It’s going to be a weird comedown for the Cubs. After nine games at home, all with charged atmospheres (especially the last three) in the middle of a division race, they’ll basically be playing the next two in an airport hangar before heading up to Milwaukee for what should be another boiling atmosphere (boiling beer for brats, obvi). That can throw some teams off, but the Cubs have to maintain focus. A dominant week, and the Cubs could pare down this Magic Number to something pretty minuscule by the time they arrive in St. Louis. We know the Brewers won’t lie down, and neither will Archer. It seems a strange decision to have Montgomery slot back into the rotation after his last two starts were so awful, but maybe the extra rest will help. Whatever, the Cubs just need to find a way.