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Tampa Bay Rays: Return Home to Begin a Seven Game Homestand

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Mar 13, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jacob Faria (34) throws the ball in the fourth inning of the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jacob Faria (34) throws the ball in the fourth inning of the spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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After a sub-par nine-game road trip with stops in Texas, Los Angeles and Seattle the Tampa Bay Rays return home for a seven-game homestand hosting the Chicago White Sox and Oakland A’s.

Returning home to the confines of Tropicana Field is hopefully just what the doctor ordered for the Tampa Bay Rays who would like nothing more than to forget the final three games against Seattle of their recent road trip.

To say that those games against the Mariners were the worst showing of the Rays in many years is likely an understatement. It was a play on Murphy’s Law, as everything and anything that could go wrong, went wrong.

From the horrendous pitching coming from the three starters Erasmo Ramirez, Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi in the series, to the bullpen, some poor fielding and some not so timely hitting turned what should have been a great opportunity to gain ground into a train wreck that saw them head home under .500.

There is no reason to rehash the debacle in Seattle, all has been said on the subject and as Ray’s manager Kevin Cash summed things up in his post-game media session on Sunday:

"“We’ve been beat from the bottom of the first on Friday until now. I guess the only good thing is that we’re getting out of here. This team [Seattle], they beat us in every facet – out-pitched us, out-hit us, out-defended us, out-managed us, everything. We just need to get back home. Enjoy the off-day, get back home.”"

Tonight the page has been turned and the Rays will open their homestand with three games against the Chicago White Sox and a four-game series against Oakland, which includes a single-admission double header on Saturday.

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This is the first of six games on the 2017 season between the two clubs and it will not be until September when they meet again. Last season, the Rays were 3-4 against the White Sox, taking two of three at the Trop but dropping three of four in Chicago. On the plus side facing Chicago, the Rays over the past four seasons are 9-3 against them, however they are 36-37 all-time at home and 28-42 in Chicago, overall Chicago own the all-time record going 79-64.

Chris Archer (4-3, 3.74, 95-SO) will be on the hill for the Rays (29-30) in Tuesday’s opener and will be making his 13th start. He is coming off a no-decision in Texas in which he allowed four runs on four hits with seven strikeouts.

The seven strikeouts recorded gave him 58 for the month, putting him into the Rays record books as the most by a Tampa Bay pitcher in a given month. Additionally, Archer is second in the AL in strikeouts (95) trailing Chris Sale of Boston who leads (119) not only the AL but the majors as well.

In his six starts in May, Archer was 2-2, with a 4.05 despite having four starts in which he recorded 11 or more strikeouts. His 58 Ks came in 40-innings that also saw had him tie James Shields for the most consecutive starts (21) of throwing at least 100 pitches. The last game in which Archer threw less than 100 pitches came on Aug. 6, 2016 against Minnesota. Career wise against the White Sox, Archer is 3-0, with a 4.11 in six games.

Following Archer in the rotation will be Jacob Faria, who will be making his major league debut. According to the Rays media department, Faria will be the seventh Ray to make his ML debut following pitchers Austin Pruitt, Chih-Wei Hu, Jose Alvarado, Ryne Stanek, Hunter Wood and infielder Daniel Robertson.

Joining the Rays tonight as a taxi squad member, Faria will officially be added to the roster prior to his start Wednesday and the Rays will be making a corresponding move in order to add him. Pitching for Durham, Faria is 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA in logging 58.2 innings. He has pounded the strike zone with 84 strikeouts and has walked only 22.

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Faria ranks among the International League leaders in wins (tied for 1st), strikeouts (84, 1st), ERA (10th) and opposing average (.204, 3rd) and his 84 strikeouts are tied for second in the minor leagues. As well, in seven of his 11 starts, Faria has allowed two runs or less and in his last three starts, two have been scoreless.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that by having Faria start Wednesday, it will give Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb and Erasmo Ramirez an extra day of rest – considering what they went through in Seattle, it is a good plan of action if you ask me. Since Jake Odorizzi (3-3, 3.53) closes the Chicago series on Thursday, Topkin also writes the speculative scenario for the starting rotation, which could include the return of Blake Snell for the weekend series against Oakland, specifically with the addition of the 26th man as permitted by MLB for Saturday’s double-header.

So much has been talked about the Rays starting pitching being a key to their success that it is hard to believe that is not the case heading into Tuesday night’s game.  In 59 starts, the team has registered only 21 quality starts (36 percent) with Archer recording seven (58 percent). Next in line is Matt Andriese, currently on the DL with five (45 percent).

The bullpen remains in shambles, and will likely stay that way until Brad Boxberger returns. Danny Farquhar (2-2, 4.67) leads the pen in appearances with 30 logging 27 innings, while Chase Whitley (1-1, 2.88) who began the season in Durham and did not make his debut until April 17 has made 17 appearances logging 35 innings.

Homer Happy

Offensively, the Rays are still slugging the ball out of the park, however they were held without producing a four-bagger in Sunday’s game against Seattle, which snapped a streak of six consecutive games with multiple home runs and 15 road games with a homer that ties a club record that was set last season.

The road trip was homer productive, as the Rays hit 20 in nine games and in their last 18 games, they have gone yard 37 times. Overall, their 88 homers rank them second in the majors, as the top spot now belongs to the Houston Astros with 92.

Of their 88 home runs, they have hit 51 on the road in 30 games, which leads the majors but have gone yard only 37 times in 29 games at Tropicana Field. Also, the Rays have 14 HR from their leadoff hitters, their most from any spot in the lineup and are second in the majors to Houston (16).

The Rays are getting plenty of home run production from their first baseman as they have 17, which is the most from any position on the team. They are currently ranked tied for third in the majors behind the Braves (19) and Oakland (18) in this position. On a side note, home run production from the Rays first baseman has yielded the fewest (96) in the majors over the past six seasons.

Leading the way for the Rays in the home run department is Logan Morrison. He is currently tied for third in the AL with 16 dingers and trails Oakland’s Khris Davis (17) and Aaron Judge (18) of the Yankees for the AL home run lead.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays expected to call up young arm soon

Besides the home runs, LoMo continues to rank among the AL leaders in slugging (.551, 8th), walks with 30 (Tied 7th), 37 RBI (Tied 9th) and has not gone more than three consecutive games with a homer since his five game run back from April 22-25.

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