The Rays will aim to keep pace when they hit the road for a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates this week. Pittsburgh is 35-41 on the season and has been outscored by 33 runs, but the National League Central has been so poor that it is still within striking distance of the first-place MIlwaukee Brewers.
The Pirates could be sellers at the trading deadline if they fall back, so this is a critical interleague matchup for them to make some hay at home.
This series will be contested from Tuesday, June 27 through Thursday, June 29, 2017 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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In the first game of the series, the Rays will send out right-hander Alex Cobb. He is 6-5 on the season with a 4.05 ERA and has given up only five earned runs combined in his past three starts. The Pirates are expected to counter with Trevor Williams. He is 3-3 with a 5.09 ERA and hasn’t done too bad as a starter since joining the rotation nine starts ago.
On Wednesday, Tampa Bay’s scheduled starter is Blake Snell. He is 0-4 on the season with a 4.71 ERA. Snell got off to a poor start this season and was demoted, but pitched well in the minor leagues and now is back with the big league club. He has solid stuff when control isn’t a problem. The Pirates will send out Ivan Nova, who is 7-5 with a 3.06 ERA. Nova doesn’t have big strikeout numbers but has been consistent.
In the Thursday matchup, the Rays are scheduled to start ace Chris Archer. He is 6-4 with a 3.88 ERA and has 126 strikeouts in only 104.1 innings pitched. The Pirates will also send a talented hurler to the mound. Jameson Taillon is 3-2 with a 3.33 ERA, only giving up two earned runs in six innings last time out. Taillon has pitched three times since his return from testicular cancer and seems to be back to form despite the scary recent diagnosis.
Andrew McCutchen’s Rebound
After a slow start, the Pirates’ star outfielder has been much better of late. He was hitting only .200 on May 23, but has really picked it up in the last month and is now hitting .268. He has on on-base percentage of .350 with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs.
McCutchen had three hits and three runs in the last two games against the Cardinals and will enter this series with a hot bat. He is an integral bat in the lineup since Pittsburgh is a small-market club that can’t afford to pick up big offensive pieces in free agency.
Issues were compounded when fellow star Starling Marte was suspended for half the season for using a performance-enhancing substance. The Pirates won’t be going anywhere this season if McCutchen doesn’t perform well.
Player To Watch
Corey Dickerson -- The Rays’ outfielder was approximately a league-average hitter for the Rays last year, finishing with a .245 average, 24 homers and 70 RBIs. While those stats aren’t bad, they didn’t portend such a huge season in 2017.
Dickerson is batting .330 this year with an on-base percentage of .371. He has 17 home runs and 39 RBIs.
The 28-year-old has cooled off a little bit this month after hitting .388 in May, but he continues to be one of the Rays’ most dangerous hitters this year. He has eight hits and seven runs in the last five games coming into this series.
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