Look out Orioles, Wade Davis has never lost in Camden Yards. It's currently raining, but let's hope the tarps get pulled back so the Rays can take the field!
The Good: When in Maryland, Davis has pitched to the tune of a 2.67 ERA with a complete shut out in 2009. Unfortunately, that is not the Wade Davis we have seen lately. In April he was stellar, posting a 2.73 ERA over five games with three wins.
The Rays then brought the spotlight to Davis when they signed him to $36 mil through 2017 early in the season. April was a gem, but many baseball writers were skeptical he could keep it up. Warning signs of a new approach on the mound creeped in. His strike outs were down, his home runs and walks allowed were climbing and his velocity was dropping. Davis was slowly losing sight of the strike zone and the paranoia was not unwarranted.
The Bad: Since May he has pitched seven games to ~6.50 ERA. Although his strikeout rate has been consistent, he's given up nineteen walks and nine homeruns. April saw only one homerun and eleven walks. But, of course, there is hope! From our Rays affiliate DRaysBay on his last start in Seattle:
"Wade Davis was better today [and] he took some steps in the right direction. His pitch location left something to be desired - he left too many pitches over the plate, and missed high in the zone way too often - but he got a lot more swinging strikes than in any of his recent starts (8, or 7.4%). He also only allowed five hits and one walk over 7 innings, but unfortunately those baserunners all came clumped together and almost all scored.
OK, so maybe that's not terribly optimistic, but any step forward is better than backward and this afternoon Davis has the chance to return to form. Camden Yards has been kind to him, and the Rays are desperate for another win. Tampa is 4.0 games back in the AL East, which is a very small mountain to climb, and Davis is excited to be in Baltimore. From mlb.com:
"I've always like pitching here," Davis said. "I've always liked it here. Good field. Good mound. Good atmosphere. Some [mounds] feel closer, some feel higher."
But does he love the temperature? Sunday should be sweltering, and the forecast also calls for scattered thunderstorms...
The Rays will face the young Brian Matusz on his return from the disabled list. He pitched well early in the season, but was sidelined after only one win. It's unlikely he can replicate his sub-3.00 ERA on his return, but the Rays will be ready for the hard-to-beat lefty.
The hopefully-not-injured Matt Joyce will still be out of the lineup today, but Joe Maddon was planning on giving Joyce off today anyway. According to Marc Topkin, given Joyce's shoulder and the Tigers throwing LHP Phil Coke Monday, it's possible Joyce could be out of the lineup until the three game series against the Red Sox who will start three righties in St. Pete: Tim Wakefield, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz.
Justin Ruggiano, who is hitting .421 over his last five games will make a sixth straight start in the No. 3 hole. Elliot Johnson will also return from the DL today at short stop. Longoria who finally looked like himself last night with three hits and three RBI's will bat clean-up. The Lineup:
Johnny Damon is approaching a few big achievements. He has reached base 36 consecutive games (his career best) and is one short of Ben Grieve's club record set back in 2001. Additionally, Damon recently tied Al Kaline and Bill Buckner for 54th all-time with 498 doubles. He needs a mere two more doubles to become the 11th player of all-time with 500 doubles, 100 triples, 200 home runs and 2,500 hits.