The Los Angeles Angels got off to a 1-2 start on their 10-game road trip due to an uneven series against the Detroit Tigers. Now, they face a much taller task in the consistently contending Tampa Bay Rays over a Monday-Thursday four-game set.
The Rays are currently tied for second place in the deep American League East. That also places them in a three-way tie for the top Wild Card spot with the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. The Rays are no stranger to playoff contention, as they have routinely shown themselves to be among the class of the AL.
These two teams have met only one other time this season, when the Angels took two of three in blowout fashion back in early May. The Angels scored 25 runs in those three games, allowing the Rays to score just seven. Their record was 21-12 after that set, but they have gone 31-57 since then.
Now in completely different places, the Angels and Rays are hoping for two completely different things out of this series. L.A. simply wants to see growth from young players and consistency from veterans, while the Rays hope to separate themselves in the standings.
Game 1: Monday, Aug. 22, 4:10 p.m. PT
Tucker Davidson makes his third start as an Angel in the series opener, after being a proverbial “tale of two pitchers” in his first outings. His Angels debut saw him give up six runs on six hits in just four innings of work. But he followed that up with two runs on four hits in six innings in a winning effort.
The Rays have a disciplined offensive approach — even without the injured Wander Franco — meaning Davidson will need to have his best stuff.
On the mound for the Rays is left-hander Jeffrey Springs. In 89.1 innings this season, he’s 5-3 with a 2.52 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He has an elite 95 strikeouts compared to only 19 walks, and has been a gem for the Rays in his age-29 season.
After scoring just four runs in three games against the Tigers, the Angels have some serious work to do at the plate, and won’t have any easy pitchers to do it against.
Game 2: Tuesday, Aug. 23, 4:10 p.m. PT
Jose Suarez was in the midst of a career-best hot streak. He had gone 22.2 innings without allowing a run and was tossing a perfect game through five against the Mariners before a collapse in the sixth. Now, the young lefty needs to show he can bounce back from that moment.
He’ll have a chance to do that against veteran Corey Kluber. The 36-year old starter has thrown 122.2 innings this season, and has a 4.33 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP. His 6.17 K-to-BB ratio shows the type of discipline he has as a pitcher and the veteran presence he’s provided for the Rays.
Game 3: Wednesday, Aug. 24, 4:10 p.m. PT
The last two times this spot has come up in the rotation, the start has belonged to Touki Toussaint. But after a difficult outing against the Mariners, the Angels could decide to go in a different direction on Wednesday night.
Whoever they put on the mound must stand up against an AL Cy Young candidate in Shane McClanahan. The All-Star Game starter has been nothing short of dominant this season, as he has posted a 2.29 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in a whopping 141.1 innings.
Perhaps most impressive is McClanahan’s 173 strikeouts compared to just 93 hits and 29 walks. This translates to 5.9 hits per nine, 11.0 strikeouts per nine, and a 6.0 K-to-BB ratio. If the Angels are going to get acclimated to Rays pitching, they had better do it before Wednesday when McClanahan is on the bump.
Game 4: Thursday, Aug. 25, 10:10 a.m. PT
Fresh off of his complete game shutout, Patrick Sandoval is slated to be back on the mound for the afternoon finale in Tampa Bay. Of course, one incredible start doesn’t eliminate the struggles he had prior, but Sandoval absolutely has the stuff to build on last Friday’s outing.
He faces off against Drew Rasmussen, another gem within the Rays ranks — age 27 — that has posted a 2.82 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 105.1 innings. Thursday figures to be the best pitching matchup of the series before the Halos pack up and head to Toronto to close out the road trip.