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Orioles opponent preview: Tampa Bay Rays

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It doesn’t get any easier for the Orioles as they welcome a team with one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays were really good in 2019. They assembled one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, won 96 games, made the playoffs as the second wild card team and pushed the juggernaut Houston Astros to five games in the ALDS.

As things stand in 2020, the Rays are in second place of the AL East with a 4-3 record, losers of their last two games at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. Prior to that their only loss had come on Opening Day to the Toronto Blue Jays.

A handful of off-season trades has the Rays lineup looking a bit different this season. Jose Martinez came over from the Cardinals and brought his career 120 OPS+ with him. Tommy Pham was dealt to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Hunter Renfroe and a pair of prospects. Renfroe’s 33 home runs led the Padres, and he did it in less than 500 plate appearances. Also coming over from San Diego is former top prospect Manuel Margot, who is best known for his speed and defensive ability. Finally, keep an eye out for utilityman Yoshi Tsutsugo. The 28-year-old MLB rookie is a former NPB star, and he can crush a baseball. Tsutsugo owns a career .282/.382/.528 career batting line in Japan.

A piece of the Chris Archer/Tyler Glasnow trade, outfielder Austin Meadows, is going to miss this entire series after testing positive for COVID-19 and being placed on the IL back on July 16. This is a huge absence for the Rays. Meadows led the team’s offense in 2019 with 33 home runs, .558 slugging and 142 wRC+.

Series scheduled games

Friday, July 31, 7:35 p.m.

Starters: Alex Cobb (1-0, 1.69 ERA), Blake Snell (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Cobb was impressive in his first start of 2020, tossing 5.1 innings and allowing just one run on four hits en route to a win over the Red Sox. He faces his former club for start number two, but will be opposed by the 2018 AL Cy Young winner.

Snell only threw two innings in his first start of the year as he is still building up his pitch count following the extended layoff. The southpaw is looking to bounce back from what was a disappointing season for him in 2019. He post a career-best 12.4 K/9 rate, but struggled to keep the ball in the park, which inflated his ERA. Two separate trips to the injured list (broken toe, elbow surgery) limited him to just 107 innings.

Saturday, August 1st, 7:35 p.m.

Starters: Wade LeBlanc (1-0, 6.35 ERA), Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 2.25 ERA)

It felt like LeBlanc threw much better in Boston than his final line (5.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 4 SO) suggested. Prior to the sixth inning the lefty was cruising. Eliminating the two solo home runs he gave up earlier in the game would have made it even nicer.

The Rays trade of Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31, 2018 will go down as one of the greatest fleecings of the last 10 years. Included in that deal was Glasnow. The 26-year-old sits in the high 90s with his fastball and strikes out batters in bunches. But the Rays have to be careful with him. Although he was dominant when he did pitch, Glasnow missed most of 2019 with an arm strain and never went past the fifth inning after returning from the IL in September.

Sunday, August 2nd, 1:05 p.m.

Starters: TBD (-,-.—), Yonny Chirinos (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Who knows what the Orioles will do here. As of this writing, Kohl Stewart is the lone Oriole on the active roster to still not appear in a game this season. The former Twins hurler could make an appearance. Just as likely would be Tommy Milone returning to the mound for the first time since Opening Day, but who really wants to see that?

Chirinos is capable of serving as both a traditional starter and as an opener. He tossed just 68 pitches over four scoreless innings in his 2020 debut, but that would seem to be more indicative of Rays manager Kevin Cash being cautious and getting his pitchers stretched out than anything else. The 26-year-old righty experienced a little BABIP luck (.246) in 2019 and could be due for some regression.