Since departing as the Tampa Bay Rays manager following the 2014 season, Joe Maddon returns to Tropicana Field for the first time as the Rays conclude their 2017 Interleague schedule with a two-game series against the defending World Series Champions.
No doubt, the two-game series against the Cubs will be a bittersweet time for some of the Rays players and for their former skipper Joe Maddon. The memories made during his nine-year tenure as Ray’s manager will last forever but as the saying goes, life moves on.
This brief two-game home stand has more meanings than just welcoming back Maddon as the Rays continue to hang on for the second AL Wild Card. With the Twins losing to the Yankees and the Orioles to Boston on Monday night, the Rays gained a half-game on the Twins and Orioles for the current second Wild Card and are now just five games back with 12 games remaining.
Convincingly, this series could be the end of the line in regards to the Wild Card for the Rays and it will be up to Chris Archer (9-10, 4.06) who will open the series, making his second start against the Cubs this season to get things going for the Rays. Career wise against the Cubs, Archer is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts.
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Archer is 0-3 in his last three starts, managing just seven innings while pitching to a 14.14 ERA. Over this span, he has allowed three home runs, 13 runs (11 earned) on 17 hits with 10 strikeouts and four walks.
However, more concerning is the fact that he is 2-5 with a 4.26 ERA in 12 starts (63.1-IP) since the All-Star break. In these starts, Archer has allowed 12 home runs, given up 37 runs (30 earned) on 63 hits with 88 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Archer and the Rays defeated the Cubs at Wrigley back on July 4 with Jon Lester on the mound and the two were originally set to face one another again in Tuesday night’s game. However, the Cubs readjusted their rotation and Lester was moved to Wednesday, with former Ray’s minor-leaguer Mike Montgomery (6-8, 3.57) getting the call to face Archer.
Montgomery has not faced the Rays this season, however career wise he is 0-3, with a 3.60 ERA all in relief while pitching for the Seattle Mariners.
When the two teams played each other in July, the Rays were rolling in the standings and after their two-game split the Rays left Chicago with a 44-42 record while the Cubs were 42-42. However, after getting to a season high seven games above .500 (July 18, 51-44) and holders of the second Wild Card the Rays went into a tailspin going 3-9 the rest of the month just as the team made significant deals at the trade deadline.
Since Sept. 1, the Rays have won just six, while losing nine and have lost seven of their past ten games. Meanwhile the Cubs (83-66) come into Tropicana Field with a 3.5 game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central Division and a six game winning streak.
After the Cubs series, the Rays will begin their final road trip of the season stopping first in Baltimore for a four-game set Sept. 21-24 and then in New York to face the Yankees for three games Sept. 26-29 before returning home for their final three games of the season against the Orioles Sept. 29-Oct. 1.