Hot on the heels of a four-game sweep against the Kansas City Royals, not to mention winners of five in a row, the Tampa Bay Rays welcome the Boston Red Sox into Tropicana Field for a three-game series, capping the season series between the AL East foes. Boston is coming off a series split against Cleveland.
It was the Rays first four-game series sweep since September 2013 (vs. Baltimore), and their first season series sweep against an AL team. Previously their only season sweep with multiple series came in 2013 against the Marlins, going 4-0.
The sweep capped the season series versus Kansas City with Tampa Bay winning all seven games. The Rays pitching staff did so in dominant fashion, limiting the Royals to just seven runs total (1.75 runs per game). Tampa Bay used the lessons gleaned from the second and third games of the previous series against the Red Sox, last weekend, to great effect, effectively pairing fastballs with offspeed stuff to keep the Royals batters off balance. This will undoubtedly be part of their philosophy this weekend.
Boston still has the best, most well-rounded offense in baseball, however, both Cleveland and Tampa Bay proved that it could be slowed down. Moreover, Chris Sale is still on the DL and the Rays will not be facing David Price. If the pitching staff can continue to pitch as it has throughout the month of August — resulting in a 2.59 ERA and a 3.30 FIP — and if Mallex Smith M EFFECT and company can plate some runs against the less dominant hurlers on the Red Sox staff, MLB Player’s Weekend 2018 could make for some compelling baseball.
The Rays have yet to settle their pitching rotation for the first two games of the series, however — based on who pitched last and on how much rest they’ve had — BEEKER (2-1, 6.91 ERA), YARBITRON (12-5, 3,84 ERA), and ZILLA (15-5, 2.07 ERA) will likely see extended mound time this weekend. Alex Cora will respond with CABEZON (2-1, 3.10 ERA), VEINTIDÓS (15-6, 4.14 ERA), and EVO (5-5, 3.81 ERA).
Jalen Beeks picked up the win Sunday against his former team, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out three across four scoreless innings. Beeks handled the bulk of innings after opener Diego Castillo fired 1-2/3 scoreless frames to open the game. Beeks stifled Boston en route to his first scoreless appearance in the big league, lowering his ERA to 6.91 on the season. He now owns a solid 2.37 ERA through four August appearances (19 innings) after a disastrous start to his tenure with Tampa Bay.
Rays skipper Kevin Cash spoke about the challenges of any pitcher having to face the Red Sox twice in a week, which will be no easy task.
I don’t think it benefits anybody when you’re facing the Red Sox twice, I really don’t. That’s not to make an excuse for Jalen Beeks. I don’t care if it was Blake Snell or (Nationals ace) Max Scherzer or whoever. When you’re facing that lineup twice in five days, I don’t think it’s going to bode well for the pitcher as much as the hitter.
Hector Velazquez was the hard-luck loser against the Rays on Sunday, allowing one run on three hits and three walks over four innings. He struck out two. Making a spot start for the injured Chris Sale (shoulder), Velazquez limited the damage to a second-inning solo homer before handing the ball to the bullpen. He owns a solid 2.74 ERA across 65-2/3 innings this season. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (1-1, BB), Matt Duffy (5-7, BB), Joey Wendle (2-4, HR, RBI)
Ryan Yarbrough picked up the win on Monday after he fired off 5-1/3 scoreless innings against Kansas City. He struck out six. Yarbrough relinquished two hits and one walk in the outing. The southpaw replaced opener Hunter Wood midway through the second inning and recorded the final out with two runners on the base paths. Tampa Bay plated their lone run in the bottom half of the inning, making Yarbrough the pitcher of record while he and the bullpen shut down the Kansas City offense for the rest of the game. Yarbrough has kept the opposition off the board in each of his last three appearances while posting a 0.53 WHIP and 10-to-1 K/BB across 11-1/3 innings.
Rick Porcello took the loss Monday night after he gave up five runs on six hits and one walk over seven innings against Cleveland. He struck out six. The game was tied at three apiece heading into the seventh inning when Porcello got the first out before walking the next batter. After he was then hit in the stomach by a comebacker off the bat of Yan Gomes, which led to a fielder’s choice, Greg Allen broke the tie with a two-run home shot, proving to be the difference in the game. Porcello is 3-1 against the Rays this season, although his sole loss came on May 24, the last time he took the mound against Tampa Bay. In that game, the right-hander allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks over 3-2/3 innings. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-2), Ji-Man Choi (2-5, 2B, RBI), Matt Duffy (7-18, RBI), Carlos Gomez (3-9, 2B, HR, RBI), Joey Wendle (3-10, 2B)
Blake Snell tossed six innings of one-run ball on Tuesday against the Royals, allowing four hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts. Snell threw 66 percent of his pitches for strikes and induced 23 whiffs (35% SwStr) as he recorded his second highest punchout total of the season. Snell limited baserunners to great effect and was only scored upon via a fifth-inning solo home run in the fifth inning. Snell had failed to top five innings in any of his three previous turns on the mound since returning from the DL, so the 101-pitch effort was a good indicator that he is back to full strength.
Nathan Eovaldi allowed four runs on 10 hits and one walk while fanning two over 5-1/3 innings on Tuesday against Cleveland. The one-time Ray took the loss. Eovaldi’s first two starts in Boston were excellent, yet he has now given up 27 hits and three walks while allowing nine earned across his last three outings (13 innings of work). He also has struck out only seven over that span. When Eovaldi is on, he’s great. When he’s off, he can get shelled. Key Matchup: Carlos Gomez (4-11, 2 2B, 2 BB)
— OF Tommy Pham, who dislocated his finger Tuesday, remained sore and was out of the lineup on Thursday. He was able to take some swings before the series finale against the Royals and hopes to return Friday.
— Because it bears mentioning once again:
“He’s something to watch.”
Yes. Yes he is. pic.twitter.com/CnIfDy7ue3
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 24, 2018
—The Rays will wear specially designed caps, socks, and jerseys, with their nicknames on the back, as part of the Player’s Weekend, and they will be allowed to use different colored cleats and other equipment. In case you missed it, here is a list of the Rays Player’s Weekend nicknames:
Willy Adames: “THE KID”
Jose Alvarado: “EL POCHO”
Jake Bauers: “JB”
Jalen Beeks: “BEEKER”
Diego Castillo: “SAMANA”
Yonny Chirinos: “YONITO”
Ji-Man Choi: “JI”
C.J. Cron: “BIG FELLA”
Jose De Leon: “PULPITO”
Matt Duffy: “DUFFMAN”
Jake Faria: “FUH-REE-UH”
Wilmer Font: “FONKY”
Tyler Glasnow: “MINI HORSE”
Carlos Gomez: “EL FINAL”
Kevin Kiermaier: “OUTLAW”
Adam Kolarek: “AK”
Vidal Nuno: “SLEEPY”
Michael Perez: “MYKII”
Tommy Pham: “PHAMTASTIC”
Daniel Robertson: “D-ROB”
Chaz Roe: “RANCH”
Sergio Romo: “EL MECHÓN”
Jaime Schultz: “SCHULTZY”
Mallex Smith: “M EFFECT”
Blake Snell: “ZILLA”
Ryne Stanek: “STANNY”
Jesus Sucre: “SOOKY”
Joey Wendle: “MENDLE”
Hunter Wood: “WOODY”
Ryan Yarbrough: “YARBITRON”