Colorado Rockies series preview: Interleague play with the Tampa Bay Rays

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 28: Kyle Freeland #21 of the Colorado Rockies throws a pitch in the first inning against the Miami Marlins during Opening Day at Marlins Park on March 28, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 28: Kyle Freeland #21 of the Colorado Rockies throws a pitch in the first inning against the Miami Marlins during Opening Day at Marlins Park on March 28, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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After a 4-game split with the Miami Marlins, the Colorado Rockies travel north to Tampa, Florida to face the Tampa Bay Rays for the next three games.

The Colorado Rockies will face the Tampa Bay Rays for three games before heading home for their home opener. The Tampa Bay Rays just finished a four game series at home against the 2017 World Champion and reigning AL West champion Houston Astros and took 3 of 4 from them so they are doing well thus far.

Here’s 3 things to look for entering the series.

The designated hitter

With the Rockies playing in an American League stadium, they will have to utilize the designated hitter. After the game on Sunday in Miami, Rockies manager Bud Black did not reveal any of his cards on who would be used as a DH but the Rockies have a few options.

If they keep their regular defensive alignment and just use somebody off the bench as a DH, I would personally think that Mark Reynolds would be the guy who would fit the DH bill best. However, with the injury to Daniel Murphy, the Rockies could Pat Valaika (who was called up today in a corresponding move to Murphy’s injury), Raimel Tapia, or Garrett Hampson. You could also see one of the regular defenders get a defensive day off for each game of the series and plug in somebody else off of the bench in the other spot.

It will be interesting to see what strategy Bud Black decides to use.

The opener

On Monday, the Rays will use “the opener” as Ryne Stanek will open the game for the Rays and they will use their bullpen for the rest of the game. It was a strategy that worked very well for the Rays last year as they pitched to the 2nd best ERA in the American League last year.

For Stanek, he was the opener in 29 games for the Rays last year, which was enough to be the second highest on the team in “starts” as he and Blake Snell were the only pitchers to start more than 17 games.

Stanek pitched to a 2.98 ERA in 59 games including the 29 as an opener. He had a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio and averaged just a little bit more than an inning per appearance.

He will face Rockies starter Chad Bettis, who will be making his first start of the season.

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A marquee matchup

On Tuesday, the aforementioned Snell is slated to start for Tampa. He struggled on Opening Day for the Rays as he allowed 5 runs (all earned) in 6 innings in a 5-1 loss to Houston.

However, Snell is still a force to be reckoned with as he is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. He led the AL in wins since he went 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA, that also led the league in 31 starts (180 2/3 innings). He led the league in AL in ERA+ (219) and hits allowed per nine innings (5.6). He only walked a little bit more than 3 walks per nine innings but he struck out 11 per nine innings. He was also an All-Star and even came ninth in AL MVP voting.

He will face Rockies ace Kyle Freeland, who, as you probably know, pitched excellently in 2019 and on Opening Day. He went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts (202 1/3 regular season innings) last season and came in 4th in the NL Cy Young Award voting. On Opening Day, he went 7 innings while only allowing 2 hits and one run in the Rockies 6-3 win.

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Wednesday’s 11 AM MT start will also be a good matchup as German Marquez will face Charlie Morton but Tuesday’s matchup between Snell and Freeland will be one of the best matchups that the Rockies will have all season long.