After an 8-5 win over the reigning World Series champions on Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rays will go for a series sweep tonight in Boston. Tampa Bay has dominated the Red Sox at Fenway Park this season, going 7-1, and is 4-1 on the current road trip.
They enter play a half-game ahead of the Athletics for the final playoff spot, 2-1/2 games back of Cleveland for the top Wildcard spot, 7-1/2 games behind New York in the AL East, and 2-1/2 games ahead of the third-place Red Sox. As of Thursday, Baseball Prospectus gave the Rays a 69.8% chance of a postseason berth, while FanGraphs is a little less bullish, giving them a 56.4% chance — up 6% from Wednesday.
Tampa Bay came out strong Wednesday night, scoring five runs in the first two innings on a Travis d’Arnaud RBI base hit (scoring Ji-Man Choi from second), a second-inning leadoff solo homer by Kevin Kiermaier, and a three-run home run to right by Austin Meadows (scoring Willy Adames and Choi).
They tacked on one more in the sixth inning on Adames’ 411-foot blast to left, and two more in the seventh on Kiermaier’s triple (scoring Lowe from first) and Matt Duffy’s single (scoring Kiermaier).
Colin Poche’s 1-1/3 outing appearance was a huge contribution to the victory. The Red Sox rallied for three runs in the seventh inning, chasing Ryan Yarbrough. With Andrew Benintendi at the plate and runners on the corners, Poche entered the game and struck out the left-handed-hitter to end the frame.
His sequence of pitches:
- Fastball down and on the outside corner (foul ball, strike one).
- Fastball at the belt and on the outside corner (foul ball, strike two).
- Inside fastball above the zone (ball one, but changing Benintendi’s eye level).
- Inside fastball at the belt (foul ball).
- 84 mph slider which the Red Sox’s outfielder swung through.
Then in the eighth inning, Poche worked around a leadoff hit but striking out the next three batters to finish the frame.
In Poche’s last 1-2/3 innings of work, the left-hander has given up just one hit and notched five strikeouts. His newfound offspeed pitch is bearing fruit, and none too soon.
The New What Next
Brendan McKay (1-1, 3.72 ERA) will get the start for Tampa Bay, pitching opposite of Andrew Cashner (10-5, 4.18 ERA).
Brendan McKay was recalled from Triple-A Durham on Wednesday. Through four big-league appearances, McKay owns a 3.72 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and an 18 K/BB across 19-1/3 innings. The left-hander said his biggest goal is to be more consistent … that he is aware of the challenge the Red Sox can present.
Very similar to a lot of teams you face up here. I faced the Yankees, and it’s very similar — one through nine you’re not essentially getting a break. You’re facing quality hitters the whole way through. And you’ve just got to be on from pitch one until however many pitches you throw. And hope whatever pitch you throw that may not make your spot to still be good enough to get a swing and miss or not as much damage as they can do.— Brendan McKay
Andrew Cashner allowed three runs on 10 hits and a walk across 6-2/3 innings on Friday. He struck out six. While he wasn’t quite dominant, this was his first victory for Boston since joining the club right after the All-Star break. Cashner owns a 4.18 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 81 punchouts over 114 innings this season. He is 2-1 with a 4.03 ERA in five career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Guillermo Heredia (2-8, 2B, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-8), Austin Meadows (2-3, 2B), Tommy Pham (3-11, HR, 2 RBI), Joey Wendle (3-8, 3B, 2 RBI, BB)
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.
Rays 8/1/19 Starting Lineup
- Choi 1B
- Pham LF
- Meadows RF
- Duffy 3B
- Kiermaier CF
- Aguilar DH
- Sogard 2B
- Zunino C
- Adames SS
— After dropping six of 10 games following the All-Star Break, the Rays were able to finish the month strong, with a 14-12 record. Credit Travis d’Arnaud’s for helping the Rays stay afloat, as he drove in 25 runs in July, matching Aubrey Huff’s 2005 performance for most by a Ray in July, and the most in any month since Brad Miller had 26 and Evan Longoria 25 in August 2016.
— Expect reinforcements in the series finale. Jesus Aguilar and Nick Anderson, two of Tampa Bay’s deadline acquisitions (links 1, 2), have been added to the roster. Nate Lowe and Jose De Leon have been optioned to Durham to make room for the latest additions.
Meanwhile, the Rays sent RHP Trevor Richards, to Triple-A Durham so he can be stretched back out for starter/bulk duties. He had been used in short relief of late with Miami.