In a strange turn of events, the Tampa Bay Rays’ starting pitching staff has been problematic this season. From injuries to slumps, the Rays’ starters could be the team’s downfall when October and the MLB playoffs roll around.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ organization is known for a few things: having stadium issues, having a low payroll, and producing great pitchers. However, only two of those are necessarily true this season. Well past the midway point, the Rays are down to having one to three starting pitchers available.
When fully healthy, the Rays arguably have one of the best pitching staffs in the MLB. That is not the case, though. Currently, the Rays have only Charlie Morton and Brendan McKay, a rookie, as their true starting pitchers.
On the shelf, however, the Rays have Tyler Glasnow, who was lights out to start the season. Blake Snell, who was returning to form, also finds himself on the IL. Brent Honeywell, the Rays’ second ranked prospect and Yonny Chirinos, a true inning eating starting pitcher round out the starters who are injured for the Rays.. With the vast majority of the starters on the injured list, the Rays have had to lean heavily on three pitchers.
Charlie Morton has had another solid year. Thus far, he is 13-5, with a 2.77 ERA, and 1.06 WHIP. He earned himself an All Star designation with his first half performance. He continues to be the Rays’ number one option.
Morton has kept that pace as of late, but has received little in the form of run support. In his last three starts, he has gone 1-2, thrown 20 innings, allowed only six total runs, with no walks, and has rung up 29 batters in that span. In terms of run support, the Rays were shut out in both of Morton’s losses. Barring injury, Morton should continue his hot play.
One of the Rays’ top prospects prior to being called up, Brendan McKay has been inconsistent to start his MLB career. The 23-year old is 2-2, sporting a 5.08 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. With all things considered, McKay’s start could be worse. The Rays regularly put few runs on the board and rely on their pitching to get them through offensive slumps.
Over his last three games, McKay has shown his youth and inexperience. He went 1-1, pitched 14.1 innings, allowed 10 runs, but the most glaring issue was his walks. In that three game stretch, McKay gave up eight walks. The upside is that six of them came in one game, which means it might just be a blip. However, the Rays need McKay to step up his game and continue his improvement as the season winds down.
Ryan Yarbrough is an interesting case for the Rays. He typically has been a multi-inning middle reliever, but he has shown this season that he can get it done as a starter. On the year, Yarbrough touts a strong 11-3 record, a 3.34 ERA, and a dazzling 0.88 WHIP. However, the majority of Yarbrough’s performances have come in relief, as he has only made seven starts this year.
That being said, his last three outings should force Rays’ manager, Kevin Cash, to put Yarbrough on the mound more often. Although he has only gotten one decision, a win, in those three games, he has been stellar. Over 19.2 innings pitched, he has allowed only one earned run and one walk in contrast to his 23 strikeouts. Yarbrough has regained great command of his nasty cutter, looping changeup, and tough two-seamer.
Down the Stretch
Down the stretch and into the playoffs, the emergence of Ryan Yarbrough will be a big boost to the Rays’ staff. No one can predict how pitchers return from injury and a solid option apart from the returning Chirinos and Snell will be perfect for Kevin Cash to allow those two to ease their way onto the mound. The Rays will need their starters to perform well heading into the playoffs, even if their bullpen has been good. Starters can often be the difference maker in a postseason series, and the Rays may very well find themselves there come October.
Author Twitter: @KingGeorge94
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