Minnesota and Tampa Bay wrap up their four-game series on the west side of Florida. Thus far it’s been everything we hope for from two of the best in the American League.
Minnesota (39-18, +21.2 units) at Tampa Bay (35-21, +5.3 units)
With how this series has played out and how clearly strong these two American League clubs are, we are already looking ahead to later this month when they will collide at Target Field (June 25-27) for three more tilts.
Before then, we have the series finale on Sunday. Though Tampa Bay is long known for developing pitchers, Jake Odorizzi never completely settled in with the Rays from 2013-17 and went to Minnesota where it was more of the same. Last season the right-hander was 7-10, with a 4.49 ERA, which was the highest of his career as a starter.
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After last season, Odorizzi went to the Florida Baseball Ranch and had video breakdown of his work. He learned to use his legs more to drive his pitches and to improve his mechanics on finishing each pitch. That carried over into the spring, where velocity was up, the breaking pitches had more bite and the changeup more sink. Armed as a new pitcher, the 29-year old is 7-2 with a mere 2.16 ERA and opposing hitters are down 50 points in batting average to .184. Throwing more strikes have meant less walks and his WHIP is a sterling 0.99.
As we went to post, Tampa Bay had not named a starting pitcher. The presumptive choice is Ryan Stanek in the opener role with a 3.06 ERA. Stanek has made 16 starts in his 25 appearances has a stellar 1.73 ERA when in that role and the Rays are 11-5. However, on the Rays radio network, there was talk of Ryan Yarbrough (4-1, 5.53) being given the ball.