The Rays have twice shutout the Rangers this week but their offense has its own challenge tonight, going up against Yohander Mendez.
He’s a 6’5″ power arm from the left side and has looked like a 24-year-old that has figured it out since he nearly got sent back home to Venezuela this summer.
Instead, Mendez was sent down to the minor leagues as a punishment for a drunken night in Kansas City, details of which aren’t readily available to us in the public.
Ultimately, though, he got a second chance and has so far made the most of it. He’s made three appearances this month and given up seven hits and two runs in fifteen innings. Most impressive was his four innings in Oakland, where he gave up nothing but a Kris Davis first-inning homer.
He should keep it in the yard tonight. The wind is forecast to blow in at the ballpark in Arlington tonight and the Rays aren’t really like that, except for Ji-Man Choi and Tommy Pham in the middle, each of whom have been September heroes. If I’m Mendez tonight, I’m extra careful with those two.
Choi didn’t homer in last night’s 4–0 win (Blake Snell’s 20th), but he did drive in a run with a single and walked. He’s 15-for-53 this month with five homers and is slashing .267/.350/.517 after bottoming-out at .221/.291/.390 just over a month ago. Pham has hit in nineteen of his last twenty games with three homers. Nine of those nineteen have been multi-hit games.
Diego Castillo will open this thing up for the Rays. He’s been good all season but at his best in September. He’s given up three hits, two walks and one run in nine innings this month.
After that, it could be Ryan Yarbrough, who’s had four days of rest (and has poor numbers with four days). It could also be Hunter Wood or Vidal Nuno with Adam Kolarek later. The Rays shutout the Rangers last night but Blake Snell only got through five innings so the bullpen isn’t in tip-top shape, but there’s more than enough pitching to go around out there.
I definitely like Tampa Bay but it’ll cost you. I’m fully aware that Choi is mashing and Pham is playing with the sort of reckless abandon you see in Game 7s but I’m intrigued by the idea of getting behind Mendez tonight. He’s had control problems in the past but they have been just that: in the past. Since his second chance, he’s limited the walks and I’m not worried about the home run ball in this spot. I am concerned the Rays grind him down but if he stays aggressive, his stuff will play.