Ashley MacLennan helps out here at BCB as an associate editor and also writes some of the Outside The Confines articles. She’s also an editor at our SB Nation Rays site DRays Bay, so I asked her to write up a few words about the Rays for us.
It’s no secret that the Tampa Bay Rays have had a tremendous start to the season. Kicking it off with a 13-game winning streak; their record-breaking 14-game home win streak, and just some generally tremendous baseball being played. For once, the Rays aren’t the butt of low-attendance jokes, and for good reason: They’re playing must-see baseball.
But while things look thrilling on the surface (they are the best team in the AL at the moment), all is not well in St. Pete. The Rays have suffered a spate of injuries early in the year, and while it isn’t presently slowing them down too much, everyone knows the baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint. The worst blow by far has been to their starting rotation, as they’ve had to move Shane Baz, Jeffrey Springs, and Drew Rasmussen to the 60-day IL, forcing them to get crafty with their pitching.
That said, getting crafty with pitching is definitely in the Kevin Cash/Kyle Snyder wheelhouse, considering this is the team that created and perfected the Opener strategy. What is has done, however, is add some stress to a bullpen that already wasn’t as good as it has been in previous years, so the real trick for the Cubs, and any other club facing the Rays is going to be getting into that bullpen as early as possible.
Adding a bit of extra interest is the return of ace Tyler Glasnow, who has been on a long road to recovery. He just made his first start back on the weekend and while it wasn’t necessarily bad, he isn’t quite at Cy Young contention level yet, as he certainly was when he left in 2021 to undergo Tommy John surgery. Glasnow isn’t due up in rotation for this series, though.
Make no mistake, this isn’t going be an easy series for the Cubs. Newcomer Taj Bradley might still be finding his major league footing but he is a sensational young talent in the starting rotation and they’re starting to trust him later into games. Shane McClanahan is an absolute beast with an 8-0 record and 1.97 ERA, so good luck there. And Zach Elfin has been tremendous as well. So yeah... even as the Rays are struggling with injury, they’re not really struggling to make strong starts. And the offense is killing it as well.
The best chance for the Cubs is to wear out the starters with patient at-bats and try to score early if they can. Getting to the bullpen would be key, but easier said than done.
The Cubs have played only 16 previous games against the Rays. That is tied for their fewest against any current big league team. They also have played 16 against the Orioles, who will be at Wrigley next month. In the three Cubs-Rays series at Wrigley Field, the Cubs have gone 1-2, 1-1 and 1-2. They have never beaten the Rays in back-to-back games, either at Wrigley or at the Trop, and overall are 6-10 vs. Tampa Bay. (Courtesy BCB’s JohnW53)
Probable pitching matchups
Monday: Marcus Stroman, RHP (4-4, 2.95 ERA, 1.094 WHIP, 3.74 FIP) vs. Taj Bradley, RHP (3-1, 4.44 ERA, 1.151 WHIP, 3.25 FIP)
Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (0-1, 6.23 ERA, 1.846 WHIP, 3.06 FIP) vs. Shane McClanahan, LHP (8-0, 1.97 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, 3.33 FIP)
Wednesday: Justin Steele, LHP (6-2, 2.77 ERA, 1.108 WHIP, 2.86 FIP) vs. Zach Eflin, RHP (7-1, 3.17 ERA, 1.019 WHIP, 3.73 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Monday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
Tuesday: 6:40 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
Wednesday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network
Please don’t get swept.
Seriously, though, these pitching matchups don’t look all that one-sided, except for Tuesday when the Cubs face Shane McClanahan, who seems on track to win the A.L. Cy Young Award.
The Rays are just 13-10 on the road, compared to 26-6 at home. Maybe the Cubs can sneak out a win here.
The Cubs have Thursday off, then travel to San Diego for a three-game series against the Padres which begins Friday evening.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Rays?
This poll is closed