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Dodgers Series Preview: Los Angeles Visits the Rays in Tampa Bay

The Boys in Blue head to the ‘Trop.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 3: Manager Dave Roberts #30 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 3, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The last time the Dodgers and Rays played was in 2016. The teams split the 4 games between them that year. Two were played at Dodger Stadium, and the other two at Tropicana Field in Tampa.

That series featured the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Bud Norris, and Carl Crawford as Dodgers; and Matt Moore, Evan Longoria, and even Logan Forsythe in Rays uniforms.

Obviously, both teams have very new looks coming in to 2019. The Dodgers have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games, while the Rays have stumbled going 5-5 in theirs – but they still are only half a game back of the Yankees in the AL East. They hold a .614 winning percentage, so the Rays are no slouch team.

Tuesday, May 21

Clayton Kershaw vs. TBD

The Rays like to be mysterious with their starters, so I’m not going to guess who they’ll throw out there. Of course, this is the team that pioneered the “opener” just over a year ago. One thing is certain, the Dodgers will not be facing Blake Snell or Charlie Morton, as they started the last 2 games for the Rays.

As for the Dodgers, they’re sending out Clayton Kershaw. This will only be Clayton Kershaw’s 2nd career start against Tampa, and first ever at Tropicana Field. His only outing against TB came way back in 2013 where he struck out 8 in 8 innings for a Dodger win.

Kershaw is coming into this game 3-0 with a 3.40 ERA in 2019. He’s recorded 36 strikeouts in 39 innings, while his WHIP sits at .958 and his FIP at 4.10, easily his highest FIP since his rookie year.

Still, it is early and Kershaw is still effective. The hitters that the Rays have don’t have a ton of experience against him. Avisail Garcia has 2 hits against him in 2 at bats. Erik Kratz has 1 hit in 6 at bats. Not a lot to really go on, there.

As it always is with Kershaw right now, pitch location and changing speeds will keep the ball in the park. Hitters are going to make contact, but soft contact seems to be Clayton Kershaw’s evolving game. He’s thrown a handful of changeups in 2019. It would be interesting to see him try to play with that pitch against the Rays.

Wednesday, May 22

Rich Hill vs. TBD

The Dodgers are sending veteran Rich Hill out for Wednesday’s game. Rich is coming off his best start of the 2019 season as he struck out 10 over 6 innings, while giving up only 2 hits on Friday. I predicted this was coming, as Rich Hill didn’t really have much a spring training. His first few starts definitely looked like a veteran still ramping up, and boy was he ramped up against the Reds.

Rich Hill has faced the Rays in his career many times, due to his experience in the American League. Over his career, Rich is 2-0 with a 4.82 ERA versus the Rays, with 11 appearances in that span. 2 of those, were starts. The current Tampa Bay Rays also don’t have a ton of experience against Rich Hill.

Only old friend Travis d’arnaud and Guillermo Heredia have any hits against Rich Hill, but this is all in few at bats. Kevin Kiermaier has the most at bats against Dick Mountain — and that’s 5. Hitters tend to have a lot of trouble picking up the curve versus fastball against Rich Hill the first few times they see him, and I could see Rich Hill getting another 8 strikeouts in 6 innings of work.

Rays Players To Watch For

Second baseman Brandon Lowe appears to be having somewhat of a breakout season for Tampa right now. He leads the team with a 1.8 bWAR, and has 10 home runs to his credit. Austin Meadows has been their hottest hitter as of late. He’s posting a .337/.422/.673 line in 28 games and 101 at bats. Tyler Glasnow has been having a breakout year, as he was leading the AL in ERA, but he’s on the IL for at least a month, so the Rays pitching staff has been stretched thin.

We’re likely to see righty Ryne Stanek, who’s currently posting a 3.70 ERA and leading the Rays in games started. His numbers don’t scream anything particularly special, but that’s typically the type of guy who gives the Dodgers problems. Look for this balance Rays team to get production in small places, everywhere in their roster.

Final Thoughts

Kiké Hernández has been having his struggles at the plate. It would be nice to see him only starting if there’s a left handed pitcher on the mound, but that may not work out. The Rays have been known to use those “openers” at times, and it would probably behoove them to try something like that to get the platoon players in the Dodgers lineup a difficult time.

Justin Turner’s bat has been looking more consistent, and Tropicana Field is prime for a 2 home run series from Max Muncy. Then of course, there’s always the guy still hitting over 400, Cody Bellinger. Overall, I expect the Dodgers starting pitching to be what gives the Dodgers the upper hand.

Written by AJ Gonzalez

AJ is a lifelong Dodgers fan who grew up in California. His whole family are also lifelong Dodgers fans. He lives in Tennessee with his wife, daughter, beagle, and strat.

6 Comments

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  1. I was hoping that the Dodgers would face Rays pitcher Blake Snell(LHP) so they could gauge themselves against an elite pitcher. AJ Gonzalez has mentioned that Tampa Bay has a 0.614 winning percentage and is a 1/2-game behind the Yankees, so be ready Dodgers!

    • Robin, this should be an interesting series if for no other reason than Freidman is in his old stomping grounds and has been known to do deals with the Rays back and forth so WSS. Eventually, Dodgers will face elite pitching and will need to step it up and nor revert to their K days with leaving tons of RISP by not putting the ball in play.

  2. I turn the tv on (mlb.tv) to see if Belli hits bombs. Love to see the kid hit .400! Kershaw is getting by on guts and moxie. If Turner, Seager, and the boys can be themselves. Belli keeps looking like Ted Williams. And that starting pitching wow. We need a stud reliever like Kimbrell and we’ll be back in October w a shot.

  3. Has the clock struck midnight on the Tampa Bay Rays? The Yankees are in 1st place in the AL-East with a core of their starters i.e. Judge and Stanton, pitchers Severino and Bettances on the IL. The Red Sox after stumbling out of the gate have gotten untracked and appear to be on route to another post-season.

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