The Tampa Bay Rays make their way into Boston for a four game wrap-around series against the Red Sox, following a series salvaging 2-0, five hit, shutout of the Texas Rangers Wednesday, in Arlington. Matt Moore did not have the most sparkling of outings, posting a 5.1 IP/1 H/0 R/0 ER/6 BB/5 K slash line on 106 pitches (54 for strikes). However I’ve got to hand it to him, Moore held a dangerous Rangers team to only one hit, making big pitches to get out of jams he got himself into. Moore, Cesar Ramos, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta kept the Rays in the game long enough for Fernando Rodney to come in and shut the door on the Rangers on 15 pitches, (10 for strikes) saving his first game of the year.
Offensively speaking, Tampa Bay’s average runs scored (per game) dropped once more, this time to 2.3. Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist continue their streak of timely hitting, though the rest of the team is leaving a lot to be desired. Perhaps Felix Doubront can offer that spark to help the Rays snap out of their offensive doldrums. The Rays have beaten him up in the past, so only time will tell.
The AL East is as unpredictable as ever. The Red Sox — unexpectedly — charged out the gate to start the season, going 5-2 in the first seven games. The Rays have had a hard time steadying the course and staying consistent, giving up 27-of-44 runs with two outs. The Sox dropped the last two to the O’s, while the Rays are coming off a hard fought win. One thing is certain, this should be a compelling four game set.
Note: With the cancellation of Friday night’s game, the pitching matchups for the series will now be: Price vs. Lester on Saturday, Cobb vs. Buchholz on Sunday, and Hellickson vs Dempster on Monday. Say what you will about the Trop, but if there was a roof on Fenway…
- Jon Lester: Tough lefty Jon Lester (2-0, 1.50 ERA) is off to a good start in 2013. Lester has never been a friend to the Rays, though Tampa Bay has done a good job of figuring him out over the last few seasons. Lester’s posted a 6-8 record since 2009, with a plus 4.00 ERA in ’09, ’11, and ’12. Nevertheless, Tampa Bay has posted a paltry .218 BA/.310 OBP/.315 SLG/.694 OPS slash line in 197 at-bats. The Rays have made a habit out of not producing against lefties, though a few have done well against Lester. It’ll be interesting to see if they can knock him around like they did in 2012 when he went 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA against Tampa Bay. Key match-ups: Shelley Duncan (4-13, 2 2B, RBI, 2BB), Yunel Escobar (7-23, 2 RBI, 3 BB), Desmond Jennings (3-12, 2 2B, BB), Jose Molina (5-15, 2 BB), Ben Zobrist (8-35, 2 2B, HR), 6 RBI, 6 BB).
- Clay Buchholz: The Red Sox will throw Clay Buchholz on the mound for Sunday’s match-up. Buchholz is another tough lefty that Tampa Bay has had a hard time with. Coming off his second win of the season, Buchholz is sporting a disgusting 0.64 ERA at the moment. Similar to Lester, Tampa Bay was successful in beating up on Buchholz in 2012 (1-3, 3.99 ERA), though that’s about it. Only able to tag the Red Sox LHP for 40 hits in 179 at-bats, the Rays have a combined .223 BA/.327 OBP/.335 SLG/.662 OPS slash line against Buchholz with more strikeouts (42) than RBI (18). Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (3-12, HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB), Sam Fuld (1-2, 2B, RBI), Matt Joyce (6-18, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB), Jose Molina (7-17, 2B, 4 RBI, BB), Sean Rodriguez (3-10, 2B, RBI).
- Ryan Dempster: The Rangers answer to the Angels 2012 acquisition of Zach Greinke, the Red Sox picked up Ryan Dempster in the off-season. Dempster’s spent most of his career in the NL, so most of the current Rays haven’t faced him. Those that have certainly haven’t put up good numbers, posting a .156 BA/.327 OBP/.335 SLG/.662 OPS slash line in 45 at-bats, with two doubles, a triple, two RBI’s, and seven walks.
- Weather concerns: Friday night’s game has been postponed due to inclement weather. The makeup date hasn’t been announced yet, possibly in June.
- The Red Sox lead 150-109 overall, and are 83-46 at Fenway. It bears mentioning, the Rays have not lost a season series since 2007.
- After starting the season strong, Red Sox ace (har-har) John Lackey has been placed on the 15-day DL with Slack Jaw Syndrome…urm, a right biceps strain.
- Jonny Gomes is 10-for-29 (.345) with three homers and a 1.181 OPS in eight games against the Rays.
- Key Red Sox additions/new faces: C Mike Napoli, RHP Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes, Jackie Brantley Jr, and Shane Victorino.