MLB "Turning Two" Recap: September 9, 2019

With some crucial series taking place over the weekend, let’s recap what happened with the Rays and Diamondbacks.

Top Teams

Arizona Diamondbacks (75-68, 2nd Place NL West, 1.5 WCGB)

The D-backs have had an interesting season to say the least. While they have made great ground this second half of the season, it’s hard not to think about what could have been if they elected not to trade ace Zack Greinke to the Astros. There are many contributors to this young and talented offense, but the pitching staff remains a question mark, especially after Greinke’s departure.

Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar have headlined this young lineup. Marte is having an MVP caliber season with a .330 average and 32 homers to go with it. His slash line is also one of the league’s best at .330/.390/.599. His OPS currently stands at .989.

Eduardo Escobar has also been carrying the freight this season for the D-backs. He is hitting .270 with 33 homers and 110 RBI’s. By the home runs and RBI’s, you may think he is having a better year than Marte, but that is not the case. Escobar’s wOBA (weighted on-base average) is .348. This stat is measured in general to determine a player’s efficiency at the plate. Marte’s wOBA stands just short of 60 points higher at .407, which ranks 8th in the entire league.

Catcher Carson Kelly is also having an extremely productive year at the plate. In 99 games this season, Kelly has 18 homers and a .877 OPS. To put things into perspective, Kelly’s wOBA is .357, nine points higher than Escobar’s. His OPS is also 24 points higher than Escobar’s. (I’m not trying to bash on Escobar or discredit his great season, but the mainstream stats that are advertised can be very deceiving.) Looking at the catcher’s offensive stats, Kelly ranks among the league’s best.

The D-backs took to Cincinnati to face the Reds in what was an important series for the team to make ground in the Wild Card standings. Arizona is currently 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot with 19 games remaining.

The inconsistent Robbie Ray took the mound for Arizona against Tyler Mahle. In the first inning, Cincinnati took the lead on an RBI double from the young stud Aristides Aquino. The D-backs responded in the 3rd frame with Nick Ahmed blasting a solo homer. Eugenio Suarez drove in a run in the bottom of the 3rd to help Cincy regain the lead.

The 5th inning provided plenty of offense. Ketel Marte launched a three-run home run and Josh Rojas plated two on an RBI single to give Arizona a 6-2 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Eugenio Suarez plastered a three-run homer, his 42nd of the season, to cut Arizona’s lead to one. Wilmer Flores then drove in a run in the 8th to help give the Diamondbacks the 7-5 victory. 

Saturday’s afternoon game featured a great pitching matchup. Arizona’s Alex Young faced Luis Castillo of the Reds. Young dazzled as he went 8 shutout innings dealing a career-high 12 strikeouts. Luis Castillo pitched 7.2 innings striking out 10, but allowed 2 runs.

The scoring started and stopped in the 4th inning as Ketel Marte drove in a run on an RBI single. Christian Walker also drove in a run that inning to make the score 2-0. That score would remain until game’s end as the Diamondbacks picked up their 2nd straight win against the Reds.

In Sunday’s matinee, Nick Ahmed opened the scoring with an RBI single in the top of the 2nd frame. Later in the 3rd, Eugenio Suarez hit a two-run homer to give the Reds a 2-1 lead (more on him later.) Ketel Marte continued his elite season by smacking his 33rd homer of the year, in two-run run form, in the 5th to give the D-backs the lead. Eugenio Suarez wouldn’t let Arizona go home with a victory as he blasted his second dinger of the game in the 8th to tie it up, 3-3.

Pitcher/hitter/gym rat Michael Lorenzen has been getting at bats recently not just because the Reds’ season is over, but because he’s actually a good hitter. He pinch-hit in the bottom of the 9th and lasered a game-winning RBI double down the left field line to give the Reds the 4-3 victory.

The Diamondbacks have won 11 of their last 13 contests and have primed themselves as a potential postseason contender. They have a massive four game series against the Mets starting Monday night, as the Mets are four games out of the second Wild Card spot themselves. It won’t be an easy contest as the D-backs are slated to face Jacob deGrom in game one of the series. Fangraphs currently gives Arizona a 14.2% chance of making the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Rays (86-59, 2nd Place AL East, 1 Game WC Lead)

The Rays are potentially the most experimental team in baseball. They were the pioneers of the “opener.” A tactic in which you essentially use your bullpen the entire game, as your opening pitcher only throws a few innings, if that. It’s safe to say the theory has worked. Although the team does have some studs in their rotation such as Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, they tend to trust their bullpen in many situations.

On the season, Charlie Morton has a 3.11 ERA, 219 K’s over 176.1 innings, and a 1.10 WHIP. All fantastic numbers. With Blake Snell out for the past couple months, he is set to return this week against the Angels on the 13th if all goes right.

The team also welcomed back Tyler Glasnow to the rotation on Sunday. Glasnow was having a spectacular season pre-injury. He tossed 50.1 innings with 60 K’s. His 2.15 ERA impressed the league as the Rays eagerly awaited the 26-year-old’s return.

The team has the league’s 2nd best ERA, and with two of their primary starters injured for much of the season, Ryan Yarbrough has been a huge reason as to why this has been possible. Yarbrough is exactly what Tampa’s organization wanted the ideal “opener” to be. Yarbrough has opened ten games this season. He is an extremely valuable arm as he is able to come in to a game, either out of the bullpen or opening on the mound, and pitch up to 7 or even 8 innings. Yarbrough has a 3.49 ERA this season over 121.1 innings pitched to go with 102 strikeouts. While it may look like he’s just having an okay year, his WHIP is an incredible 0.90. He has surrendered just 95 hits and a remarkable 14 walks in his 121.1 innings.

The Rays pitching has given the offense plenty of opportunities to win games, as their offense ranks below league average at 17th in baseball with 683 runs on the season.

Over the weekend, the Rays hosted the Blue Jays for a four-game series. On Thursday, the Blue Jays opened the game with a 13 pitch at-bat that resulted in a lead-off homer from young star Bo Bichette. The Rays answered in the 4th thanks to an error from Justin Smoak that allowed Austin Meadows to cross the plate. That same inning, Avisail Garcia hit a sac fly to give the Rays the lead. The Rays plated a run in the next inning and another in the 6th on a bases loaded walk from Travis d’Arnaud.

Bo Bichette hit his second homer of the game in the 7th which drove in 2 runs to tie the game at 4. Austin Meadows didn’t appreciate that, so he launched a solo homer in the 7th to regain the lead for the Rays. It was his 27th homer of the season, as part of his 3-4 day at the plate. The Rays would go on to take game one, 6-4.

Tampa’s pitching was showcased in Friday’s matchup. Brendan McKay got the start for the Rays. The opener went 3.2 innings, allowing just 1 hit while striking out an impressive 7 batters. Avisail Garcia kicked things off in the bottom of the opening frame with an RBI double to center field. The very next inning Mike Zunino plated two more with his two-run homer. A passes ball in the 4th scored Willy Adames. Later in the 8th, Austin Meadows was at it again roping an RBI single to center field to give the Rays a 5-0 victory.

The Tampa bullpen did not allow a run all day as they only allowed 2 hits and issued 2 walks. They were also able to punch out 13 batters.

Charlie Morton got the nod on Saturday’s contest. He picked up a quality start as he pitched 6 frames, striking out 10 but giving up 3 earned. Austin Meadows kept his fire going with his RBI single in the 4th to open up the game’s scoring. Willy Adames that inning was also able to draw a walk that scored Tommy Pham. The Jays were able to make a splash in the 6th inning. It was highlighted by Reese McGuire’s bloop RBI ringle and Billy McKinney’s sac fly to give the Jays the lead.

There is some magic in this Tampa Bay team, as Daniel Robertson laced an RBI double to tie the game at 3 in the 7th. In the 8th, Travis d’Arnaud put the Rays ahead with a sac fly, and Robertson added insurance with an RBI single to make it 5-3. The Rays would win by that score as the bullpen pitched 3 shutout innings.

Tyler Glasnow made his much-anticipated return to the rotation on Sunday. He pitched just 2 innings on the afternoon giving up 3 runs and striking out 5. The Rays were able to put up a run in the 1st inning off the bat of Meadows yet again. He hit a solo home run to open up the scoring. Randal Grichuk’s 451-foot two-run homer in the 2nd inning gave the Jays a temporary lead. Daniel Robertson in the bottom half of the 2nd lined a two-run triple down the line in right to give the Rays the lead.

Avisail Garcia lasered an RBI double to center in Tampa’s three-run 5th inning. He stepped back up to the plate in the 7th and padded the lead with a home run that he plastered 456 feet. Besides the Vladdy Guerrero RBI single in the 9th, the Rays bullpen pitched six scoreless innings.

The Rays have won 10 of their last 11 games and are in prime position to make the playoffs, as Fangraphs gives them an 85.3% chance to make it. They kick off their eight-game road trip on Tuesday against the Rangers with Ryan Yarbrough slated as the opener.

Waiver Wire Targets

Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics (24.5% owned/ESPN)

The A’s pitcher made his first start in over a year on September 1st against the Yankees. He pitched 5 shutout innings and fanned 5 batters. He gave up just 1 hit and walked 3. On Sunday against Detroit, he was lights out as he went 7 innings allowing just 1 run while striking out 10. His next start is scheduled for Saturday against the Rangers in Texas. With fantasy playoffs underway, he’s a great arm to add to your roster.

J.D. Davis, New York Mets (33.5% owned/ESPN)

While Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil get credited with much of the Mets’ offensive production, Davis has put up some great numbers on the season that show he will be a valuable piece in the Mets’ future plans. Over the last week, Davis is 8-for-17. He’s a player that hits for average and will get you a decent amount of home runs, as he currently has 18 on the season. His OPS is just short of .900 on the season, and he’ll get you the hits, runs, homers, and RBI’s that your team needs. He’s a great value player who makes for solid depth on your roster.

Retired Little League baseball utility player.

Twitter: @walexbelsh