Kevin Cash and the Rays turned Major League Baseball upside down last season by implementing and committing to an experiment that has changed the way teams view the start of games. The Rays used relievers in an opener role to start games with considerable success last season and they’ve continued the trend in 2019 — only to see several other teams follow suit. Tampa Bay still sends out top-flight starting pitchers to the mound, but when Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow or Charlie Morton aren’t available, Cash has had no reservations about trusting his bullpen to get outs. With Morton expected to start on Saturday, can the Rays keep pace in the AL East race with a victory over the Indians at Progressive Field?
Morton hopes to rebound after worst start of 2019
Veteran right-hander Charlie Morton will toe the rubber at Progressive Field for the Rays in Game 2 on Saturday. The curveballer is looking to bounce back from his worst outing of the season, as he allowed five runs (three earned) over four innings against the New York Yankees. Despite the poor outing, Morton was lucky enough to escape with a no-decision and keep his undefeated record in tact. He comes in with a 4-0 record to go along with a 2.65 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 54 ⅓ combined frames. Opposing hitters are batting just .203 off of Morton this season and he’s surrendered two runs or less in eight of his 10 starts this year.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) May 2, 2019
Morton dominated the Indians in two starts last season, limiting them to just three earned runs in 13 innings of work to finish 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA. He owns a lifetime 3.70 ERA in four career starts versus the Tribe.
According to Baseball Savant, the current Indians’ roster is batting only .188 in 56 plate appearances off of Morton. However, the StatCast data is much more forgiving to Indians hitters, projecting the Tribe for an expected batting average of .302 and an expected slugging percentage of .451 off of Morton heading into Saturday’s matchup.
Carrasco snaps scoreless streak vs. A’s
The Indians will counter with right-hander Carlos Carrasco in Saturday’s pitchers duel at Progressive Field. The 32-year-old has had an up-and-down start to the season for the Tribe. He’s either been really sharp or really bad on the mound, as he’s compiled four scoreless outings and four outings of four earned runs or more through his first 10 starts. Last time out, Carrasco had his streak of 13 consecutive scoreless innings snapped, as he surrendered three earned in five innings of work at home versus the Oakland Athletics. Carrasco enters with a 4-4 overall record to go along with a 4.30 ERA and 66 strikeouts in only 52 ⅓ frames.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) May 25, 2019
The Indians’ right-hander has had some mixed results against the Rays throughout his career. He’s made five starts against them over the past three seasons, going 2-2 with a 3.82 ERA. Carrasco has been better at home this year though, posting a 3.04 ERA in five starts at Progressive Field compared to a 5.61 mark on the road.
According to Baseball Savant, the current Rays’ roster is batting only .256 in 90 plate appearances off of Carrasco. StatCast projects Tampa Bay hitters for an expected batting average of .281 and an expected slugging percentage of .476 heading into Saturday’s outing.
- Rays are 25-10 in their last 35 road games.
- Rays are 45-22 in their last 67 games vs. a right-handed starter.
- Rays are 5-1 in Morton’s last 6 road starts.
- Indians are 0-4 in their last 4 overall.
- Indians are 2-5 in Carrasco’s last 7 starts vs. a team with a winning record.
- Indians are 1-4 in Carrasco’s last 5 starts vs. American League East.