Tonight, the Tampa Bay Rays will welcome the New York Mets to Tropicana Field for the first time since 2015. As you can imagine, a lot has changed since then.
Let’s just start with some of the players on both teams for that August series in 2015. Juan Uribe, Bartolo Colon, and Curtis Granderson all suited up for the Mets in that series. A couple of future Rays took the field for the Mets as well, including Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud.
Now, let’s take a look at the Tampa Bay Rays side
To be honest, I had Tampa Bay Rays season tickets back in 2015 and went to all of these games. However, I didn’t remember in the slightest that Grady Sizemore, Daniel Nava, Richie Shaffer, and Joey Butler all played for the Tampa Bay Rays in that series.
The Tampa Bay Rays took two of three from the Mets in that series, any guesses on who the winning pitchers were for the Rays?
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The Tampa Bay Rays have made trips to Queens in both 2018 and 2020, winning only twice in six games.
However, the Rays will dodge some bullets in this weekend’s series.
The Mets have yet to announce a starter for Saturday’s game, but we know it won’t be Jacob deGrom. deGrom is currently on the IL after feeling some discomfort in his side during his last start on May 9th. Although you hate to see the best pitcher in baseball injured, the Rays hitters won’t be too upset about it.
The Tampa Bay Rays will also dodge Taijaun Walker in this series as well. Walker has been the second-best pitcher for the Mets this season, pitching to a 2.20 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and a 3-1 record.
However, I’m sure Walker wouldn’t mind pitching in a game the Mets can use the DH, especially after this at-bat from Wednesday.
However, the Tampa Bay Rays will face an old friend, Marcus Stroman. Stroman spent the first five and a half seasons of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays and has had many matchups with the Rays over the years.
So far this season Stroman is off to a good start, pitching to a 2.01 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP. Stroman has struck out 34 hitters in 40.1 innings pitched and has an ERA+ of 188. For reference, league-average ERA+ in 100. Stroman is scheduled to pitch on Sunday for the Mets.
The Tampa Bay Rays also got lucky with having the Mets so early on the 2021 schedule. If this series was scheduled in the back half of the season, the Rays would get no breaks with Mets pitching.
Jacob deGrom will be back healthy in a couple of weeks, but the Mets are eyeing the returns of Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco. Syndergaard is recovering from Tommy John Surgery and Carrasco is recovering from a torn hamstring. Both players are expected to start rehab assignments in the next week or two, giving the Mets major hope for the rest of the season.
The Mets are already in first place in the NL East and could have a potential rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard, Stroman, Carrasco, and Walker down the stretch. Scary.
As for the Tampa Bay Rays, they started their homestand this week with the second-best major-league baseball team from New York, the Yankees.
Jordan Montgomery had the Rays hitters baffled on Tuesday night, going six innings, with nine strikeouts. The Yankees went on to win 3-1.
Wednesday was a similar story, Gerrit Cole was dominant for the Yanks, going eight scoreless innings, allowing only four hits, and striking out 12. The Yankees would get the win 1-0.
However, a much different story on Thursday. The Rays bats exploded for nine runs, four off Yankees starter Jameson Taillon, en route to a 9-1 victory. The Rays were led at the plate by Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena, who combined for seven RBI’s in the game.
And as the Yankees did to the Rays in the first two games of the series, the starting pitching was the key. Rich Hill pitched 6.2 innings on Thursday, allowing only three hits, no runs, and nine strikeouts.
Shane McClanahan is scheduled to pitch the Saturday matinee at Tropicana Field, and we do not yet know who will oppose Marcus Stroman on Sunday.
The first pitch tonight from Tropicana Field is set for 7:10 PM EST.