If nothing else, the Tampa Bay Rays have one thing going for them as they head into a Saturday afternoon road game against the Chicago White Sox.
On the surface, the Rays hold a big advantage in the pitching matchup. Tampa Bay right-hander Corey Kluber has a strong history against the White Sox, and the rest of the American League Central, for that matter.
Kluber, who pitched for Cleveland from 2011 through 2019 and won two AL Cy Young awards in a four-year span, has a dominating history against the White Sox. The Rays are hoping he can help them snap a three-game losing streak.
Kluber, 36, took a no-decision and allowed no runs in 4 2/3 innings in his first start of the season, Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles. He will be opposed on Saturday by White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech. On paper, that gives Tampa Bay a big edge.
Kopech, 25, will be making just the 10th start of a career in which he is 5-4 with a 3.70 ERA, and he had never faced the Rays. His numbers pale in comparison with Kluber’s (103-61, 3.18 ERA), and they certainly don’t compare well with Kluber’s numbers against the White Sox.
Kluber has made 25 career appearances against Chicago, 24 of them starts, going 13-5 with a 2.96 ERA. He has a 6-2 record with a 2.68 ERA in 11 games at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field.
In his starts against the White Sox, Kluber has allowed three or fewer runs 17 times, two or fewer runs 14 times and one or none 10 times.
Still, Kluber is going to need some help from an offense that has been struggling.
In Tampa Bay’s 3-2 loss to the White Sox on Friday night, the Rays managed just six hits, including two apiece from shortstop Wander Franco and first baseman Ji-Man Choi. The latter leads the team with a .526 batting average and contributed a run-scoring double on Friday for his seventh RBI of the season.
“We’re just not locked in right now,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “Wander and Ji-Man are, but no one else is. We need to get it going.”
While it’s early in the season, complaints about the Rays’ offense were not new.
After Thursday night’s home loss to Oakland, veteran center fielder Kevin Kiermaier was critical of the way the Rays have started the season, saying they were sloppy in losing three of four to the A’s, including scoring just five runs in the last two games, both losses.
The White Sox didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard either on Friday night, also finishing with six hits. No. 9 hitter Jake Burger had a solo home run and drove in two runs, giving the rookie a .375 average (6-for-16).
Shortstop Tim Anderson and right fielder Andrew Vaughn each had a hit Friday night. Anderson is batting a team-high .429 and Vaughn is at .350, but the middle of the order is struggling, with Jose Abreu at .192, Yasmani Grandal at .167 and Eloy Jimenez at .200.
Second baseman Josh Harrison missed Chicago’s past two games due to a stiff lower back, but he hopes to be back in action Saturday.
“(The injury is) a little unfortunate, but that’s a part of baseball, a part of what we do,” Harrison said. “We’ve got a deep team. Better safe than sorry. I’d rather (it be) a day or two thing as opposed to something being extended. We have a good team, and that’s what good teams do — we rely on each other.”
–Field Level Media