The Tampa Bay Rays start a five-game series with the AL East foe Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night. The Rays are coming off back-to-back losses against the Milwaukee Brewers, meanwhile Toronto comes into Thursday off of a series win against the Boston Red Sox. Jeffrey Springs (3-2) will be on the mound for Tampa Bay facing off against Yusei Kikuchi (2-4). First pitch is set for 7:07 p.m.
The Rays have had a rough couple weeks, winning just one series in their last six. With five division games up for grabs against the Blue Jays, Tampa Bay could use a lift from a couple of their stars. While they are dealing with some injuries to starters, including catcher Mike Zunino and centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, the Rays still have a lineup that can create some damage.
Isaac Paredes and Randy Arozarena have been on a tear lately, both hitting well over .300 in the last week, which has given Tampa an offensive threat despite the injuries. The Rays would love for Arozarena and Paredes to maintain their hot streaks heading into the weekend.
No Pitching Problems
If the Rays have any issues heading towards the all-star break, pitching is not it. With a 3.23 season ERA, the Rays’ pitching staff has dominated, especially in June, with a 2.96 ERA throughout the month.
Led by Shane McClanahan who has a 1.77 ERA, the Tampa Bay staff has shut down opponents left and right. In the only three games the Rays and Blue Jays have played this year, Tampa Bay has had a 2.33 ERA, which they will look to replicate this series.
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) June 29, 2022
While the all-star break is still a few weeks away and voting is far from over, the Blue Jays are all over the ballots. As of the June 27 ballot update, Blue Jays starters are in the top 3 of every position, including starters at catcher, first base, shortstop, and the outfield. Highlighted by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Alejandro Kirk, this Blue Jays team can do some damage at the plate.
However, the Toronto pitching has limited the potential this team has. The Blue Jays are tied for 8th in runs scored this year, averaging 4.76 runs per game, but are giving up 4.4 runs on average. If Toronto hopes to remain in the fight for the AL East, they need find some way to improve the pitching situation.
It’s All Relative
Tampa Bay is currently fourth in the AL East. However, they are just two games out of second place in the division. The AL East has had an incredibly strong first half of the season, and all signs are pointing to the second half of the season being similar.
Baltimore Orioles are 21-16 since May 19.
Unfortunately for them, the Red Sox (27-10), Yankees (26-11), and Blue Jays (21-14) all have better records than them in that same span.
AL East is brutal.
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) June 28, 2022
With that being said, the Rays play 18 more games before the all-star break, 15 of which are division opponents. On top of that, 12 of those are against the Blue Jays and Red Sox who sit right next to them in the standings.
This stretch is crucial for the Rays as they head towards the midpoint of the season.