ST. PETERSBURG — Even with 40 games remaining in the regular season, Rays right-hander Michael Wacha could be facing an improve-or-else outing in Friday’s series opener against the White Sox at Tropicana Field.
In his last three starts, Wacha is 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA and 20 hits allowed in 14 innings. With reinforcements potentially on the way — namely Chris Archer, who could be ready to resurrect his injury-prone season by this weekend — Wacha desperately needs to show improvement.
“It’s important for him, really,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He has done such a good job of staying positive. The effort is always there. We want to see him do well. And I know it has been a rough go for three outings here.
“But his stuff, we can’t pinpoint exactly what’s going on. The way the ball is coming out of his hand certainly doesn’t indicate the results. Baseball is tough sometimes and doesn’t give you the results you’re looking for. But we’d like him to have a nice-result game.”
Wacha said he can’t pinpoint the issue, either.
“There have been times where I felt much worse on the mound, but I was getting better results,” Wacha said. “I’m going to stay positive, keep working and believe that things will turn around for you.
“It’s just as urgent as the start of the season. I always want to go out there and compete at a high level and perform well for this team. I wouldn’t say this one is any different than any other one. The pressure is always high at this level. It’s nothing new.”
The tooth hurts
Catcher Mike Zunino, who has tied his career high with 25 home runs while homering in his past five consecutive games, had a toothache and missed his second straight game. Cash said Zunino could have started, but he wanted to give him another day of rest and believes he’ll be ready for the White Sox series.
Zunino’s 9.50 at-bat/homer ratio (minimum 25 homers) has been matched by only five players in major-league history — Barry Bonds (four times, 2001-04), Jim Thome (2002), Sammy Sosa (2001), Mark McGwire (six times, 1995-2000) and Babe Ruth (three times, 1920-21, 1927).
He’s just grand
Cake was served in the press box to celebrate former Eckerd College baseball coach Bill Mathews, who worked his 1,000th game as an official scorer for Major League Baseball. He scored nearly every game at Tropicana Field from 2008-17 before the Rays began a rotation of scorers in 2018. Thursday was the Rays’ 1,873rd all-time regular-season home game.
The Rays drew an announced 22,754 fans to the four games against the Orioles, including a matinee gathering of 5,826 on Thursday. … The Rays have been tied or leading at the conclusion of 33 straight innings. … Brandon Lowe’s 29 homers are the most by a Rays second baseman, beating the mark of 28 by Jorge Cantu in 2005 (for players that lined up at second 50 percent of the time). … The Orioles’ 15-game losing streak is the second-longest in franchise history (21 from April 4-28, 1988) and the second-longest in the majors this season (17 by the Diamondbacks, June 2-20). … The Rays called up left-hander Dietrich Enns from Triple-A Durham after first baseman/outfielder Jordan Luplow (left ankle strain) was placed on the 10-day injured list. The Rays have 17 players (16 pitchers, 13 of them relievers) on the IL. That total ties the club’s single-game IL record. … Cash said right-hander J.P. Feyereisen (right shoulder discomfort) “felt good” and righty Ryan Thompson (right shoulder inflammation) “felt okay” after throwing an inning each at Durham. Both players will be monitored before moving forward. … Recently signed righty David Robertson, back from the Olympics in Tokyo, also pitched one inning at Durham. … Right-hander Pete Fairbanks (right shoulder inflammation) threw live batting practice and could work at Durham this weekend. … Kevin Padlo, who was designated for assignment on Tuesday, was claimed by the Mariners.
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