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Know Your Enemy: Tampa Bay Rays

We’re going down to the Trop to face off against another first place team. This will go well

Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays
A fan of the Tampa Bay Rays attempts to steal second base and is tackled by a security guard in the fifth inning during play against the Texas Rangers Sept. 16, 2013 at Tropicana Field.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The White Sox went 3-1 against Oakland in their latest home series, and it was sort of eventful. Lance Lynn hurt an ump’s feelings after tossing his belt (I still think he should have made the ejection worth it by mooning him), Chris Bassitt mercifully doesn’t appear to have any long-term damage after taking a line drive to the face, and the White Sox now have spent 91 days in first place.

This weekend is shaping up as a potential preview of the ALCS, so the White Sox need to be on top of things in order to be successful. The Rays are obnoxiously praised for doing so well by paying their players so little, and while it’s always great when small-market teams are doing well against the giants like the Yankees and the Red Sox, let’s remember that owners are loaded and can afford to pay players what they’re worth.

But I digress.

Last time …

Back in the June series was when fans last saw Tyler Glasnow, as he exited early with some elbow inflammation; he has since undergone Tommy John surgery. People jumped on his criticism of MLB for their foreign substance ban as a “He can’t pitch without sticky stuff!” instead of “Grip plays an important role in what pitchers do!” but hey, whatever gets you through the day, people.

The Rays got their fourth straight win to open the series, bolstered by homers from Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe, and Randy Arozarena.

Dallas Keuchel was on top of it during the second game in the series, briefly looked like the Keuchel of 2015 instead of whatever is going on right now. At that point in June, both teams had the two lowest ERAs in the AL. The Rays losing Glasnow for the rest of the season and the White Sox starters starting to look gassed has had some impact there, with both teams sliding down in the AL rankings.

The finale of the series went into the 10th inning, and the White Sox managed to pull off a win (after doing pretty poorly in extras up until that point) with an RBI single from Yasmani Grandal.

How’s it going?

Tampa Bay added Nelson Cruz to their lineup at the trade deadline. The Rays are five games up on the Yankees in the AL East and have a 75-47 record, 28 games over .500. They just finished up a four-game sweep of the Orioles, outscoring Baltimore by 26 during the series to pile on to the Orioles’ 15-game losing streak.

The Rays lineup is managing 5.26 runs per game this season. They’re leading the AL in runs with 642 and second in hits at 987. They’re also patient at the plate, coming in second in the AL in walks at 455. At home the Rays are 39-22, and against Central opponents they’re 12-7. They’re also 15-5 in their last 20 games, so the White Sox are going to need to tighten up the offense and stop making stupid defensive mistakes if they expect to succeed this weekend.

Pitching matchups

Tonight is Lucas Giolito vs. Michael Wacha. Giolito is 3-3 in his last seven, lasting 42 ⅓ innings and posting a 2.98 ERA. He’s 1-0 against the Rays, having faced them four times in his career, posting a 2.03 ERA against them. Overall Giolito is having a decent season, with a 9-9 record and 3.83 ERA over 141 innings.

Wacha is 2-4 this season over 85 ⅓ innings, with a 5.91 ERA. He’s 1-2 in his last seven, going 34 innings and posting a 6.88 ERA. He’s seen the White Sox twice, going 1-0 against them and last facing off in 2018 for a no-decision. Overall he’s gone 10 innings while putting up a 6.30 ERA in those two appearances. He relies on four pitches: a 4-seam fastball, cutter, changeup, and curveball.

Saturday will see Dallas Keuchel against Luis Patino. In his last seven, Keuchel has gone 2-3 over 40 ⅓ innings with a 4.46 ERA. He’s walked 44 this season while striking out 79 and giving up 130 hits. He appears to be on track to match his 2016 season in terms of ERA and other stats — but that was the year he won the World Series, so maybe that’s a good sign.

Luis Patino is 2-3 over 45 ⅔ innings with a 4.73 ERA. He’s 1-2 in his last seven, and has never faced the White Sox as a starter debuting last August. Patino relies on five pitches: a 4-seam fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball.

Sunday for the close is going to be Reynaldo López vs. TBD. López has looked pretty good during 2021 since returning from Charlotte, and has made a few starts outside of his relief moments in the bullpen. This will be his fourth start this season. He’s 2-0 over 25 innings with a 1.08 ERA, and 2-1 in his last seven starts with a 3.58 ERA. Against the Rays, López is 1-2, posting a 6.75 ERA over 17 ⅓ innings

Why we still hate them