After a successful +.500 road trip that got off to a disastrous 1-3 start, the Tampa Bay Rays return to Tropicana Field on Tuesday, where they will kick off a three game series against the Boston Red Sox. After dropping six out of seven prior to their road trek, the Rays bounced back to win six straight and take sole possession of third place in the AL East, surpassing Toronto. Meanwhile, Boston has vacillated between first and second place in the division all season long, and are currently tied with the Yankees at the top, although New York has a higher winning percentage. The Sox have won two straight and four of five.
The Rays started off the season off horribly and looked liked they would be competing with the Orioles for cellar in the division, but they have turned things around. And after starting the season 1-6 against Boston, Tampa Bay took two of three from the Red Sox in their last meeting at Fenway in April — winning the series and outscoring the Massholes 19-13. They did not see Chris Sale in that series, yet the did butt heads with David Price, and beat him once again; the fourth time in 11 tries.
Over the next three days Kevin Cash will lean on Jake Faria (3-2, 5.20 ERA), Chris Archer (3-3, 5.01 ERA), and Blake Snell (5-3, 3.07 ERA). Alex Cora will counter with Chris Sale (4-1, 2.29 ERA), David Price (4-4, 4.38 ERA), and a pitcher to be named before Thursday’s ball game.
Jake Faria gave up three runs on four hits and four walks while striking out two over 4-1/3 innings on Wednesday against the Royals. He did not factor into the decision. Faria was staked to a four-run lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, when the bottom fell out. The right-hander got into an early jam in the inning and already had an elevated pitch count, signaling the end of his start. Control was the culprit, as Faria recorded more walks than strikeouts for the third time this season en route to a pedestrian 1.67 K/BB on the year. Even so, he is 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 10 career starts at Tropicana Field.
Chris Sale allowed two runs on two hits and four walks over just five innings to pick up the win Wednesday over Oakland. He struck out nine. Sale was effectively wild, and needed 102 pitches to get through five innings of work, however, he was as nasty as usual. His fastball alone coaxed 10 swinging strikes in 66 offerings, and that’s not to speak of his sweeping slider. Sale was touched up for a two-run homer by Marcus Semien, the sixth he’s allowed in his last six starts. Nevertheless, Sale has been effective despite the home run problem (a 13.6% HR/FB over the last 14-days) — his peripherals are powered by a ridiculous 5.6 K/BB over 41 innings in those six starts. Sale is 8-5 with a 3.10 ERA in 15 starts against the Rays, and 3-3 with a 2.02 ERA in eight starts at the Trop. Key Matchups: Wilson Ramos (4-13, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI), Rob Refsnyder (1-3), Denard Span (3-12, 3B, RBI)
Chris Archer notched his third win of the season on Thursday against the Angels, throwing 6-2/3 shutout innings, and allowing just two hits while striking out five, but walking four. After getting tagged for six earned runs in his last start, Archer was able to bounce back with a strong outing — only his third quality start in his last four turns. Overall he still has been erratic, and sports an unsightly 5.01 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP through 59-1/3 innings. They say familiarity breeds contempt, and likewise Boston has owned Archer over his 20 career starts, pegging him with a 2-12 record and a 5.49.
David Price tossed his best outing of the season on Thursday, posting a complete game, two-run five-hit gem, against Baltimore. He struck out eight. The only runs that were charged to his line came on a ninth inning, two-out, two-run homer to Manny Machado, but the blast was not enough to ruin Price’s second consecutive strong effort, completed on an efficient 95 pitches (65 strikes, 68% strike rate). The southpaw recently copped to a bout with carpal tunnel syndrome, which comes as no surprise to anyone that follows Price and knows his proclivity for video games. The former Ray has had a tough time against his previous team, going 4-4 with a 3.47 ERA. Price is 37-30 with a 2.84 ERA in 90 career starts at Tropicana Field. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (5-18, 2 2B), Wilson Ramos (4-11, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB)
Blake Snell didn’t put together a perfect inning until the sixth, yet he made big pitches when he needed to, holding the Angels scoreless until the fifth when Andrelton Simmons hit a two-run, two-strike single to center with one out — cutting the lead to four runs. Still, the southpaw stranded leadoff doubles in the second and third innings, and held Los Angeles to 1-9 with runners in scoring position.
After the Simmons single, Snell retired his next seven batters, collecting three punch outs along the way. He scattered four hits and two runs over 6-2/3 innings, walking three and fanning eight. Snell threw 70 of 114 pitches for strikes (61% strike rate).
Red Sox starter to be announced.
— OF Carlos Gomez (right groin strain) has progressed to playing catch and will ramp up baseball activities on Tuesday in hopes of returning when eligible on Saturday (or shortly after).
— SS Adeiny Hechavarria (right hamstring) is still in the “getting treatment” stage, according to Rays skipper Kevin Cash.
— RHP Nathan Eovaldi (arthroscopic elbow surgery) will make his fourth, and likely final, rehab start on Wednesday for Triple-A Durham.
— On Tuesday, Tampa native Christian Arroyo is slated to play his first home game for the Rays.
I’m looking forward to it, Arroyo said. It’ll be fun, part of that whole homecoming thing. It’ll be exciting.
Arroyo joined the club last week when shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria was injured and quickly made a good first impression, going 4-10 with a triple, two-runs and an RBI.