The Tampa Bay Rays are set to open up a three game weekend series against the first place Boston Red Sox on Friday, at Fenway Park. Tampa Bay swept a rain shortened series in Baltimore with a 9-5 win against the Orioles on Thursday night, while Boston took two of three from Toronto. The Rays have now swept two consecutive series, won six straight games for the first time since 2014 (July 12-26, when they won nine in a row), and scored at least eight-runs in each of their last five games.
After a slow start to the season, the Rays notched their third straight series win thanks to a mightily productive offense. Much like the Red Sox, Tampa Bay’s offense has proven to be a multi-faceted run producer. They have put the ball in play with the best of them, and pounced on pitcher’s mistakes to the tune of 21 extra base hits (including nine homers) over the last seven games, allowing them to enter Boston just three-games under .500 — an improvement of six games since April 15.
Boston won 17 of its first 19 games, but dropped three straight — including a no-hit loss to Sean Manaea and the Athletics on Saturday — before winning Wednesday and Thursday night in Toronto.
Over the last 14 days, Tampa Bay and Boston have, essentially, posted the same offensive output. In fact, the Rays have out performed the Red Sox in some categories like batting average, on base percentage, BABIP, and weighted on base average. Although the question begs: can the Rays’ pitching staff keep Boston at bay long enough for the offense to go to work at the plate? Moreover, can Denard Span, CJ Cron, Joey Wendle, Daniel Robertson, Mallex Smith and company keep up the high contact/low walk/low strikeout approach against David Price and Rick Porcello?
Both teams are 7-3 over the last 10-days, which illustrates two things:
- The Rays are capable of winning ball games even though their early record might suggest otherwise.
- While still very good, the Red Sox are not infallible.
None of this is to say it will be easy for the good guys, who are 1-6 against Boston this season, because it won’t be. However, five of those six losses came by just a run, and Tampa Bay’s offense is currently firing on all cylinders. If they cannot win the series, at least it has the making of being a very entertaining set.
Over the life of the three-game set, Kevin Cash will lean on Blake Snell (3-1, 2.54 ERA) and Yonny Chirinos (0-1, 3.48 ERA) on Friday and Saturday, and the bullpen (4-7, 4.87 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday. Alex Cora will counter with Drew Pomeranz (0-0, 7.36 ERA), David Price (2-2, 2.93 ERA), and Rick Porcello (4-0, 1.93 ERA).
Blake Snell collected his third consecutive win in his last start. He could have let a first inning run shake him, however, he locked it in from that point on and attacked the zone. The southpaw hurled seven superb innings (the longest start for a Rays starter this season) and allowed just one run on five scattered hits and no walks. He struck out six. Snell has performed to a 1.40 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP, with five walks and 25 punch-outs over 19-1/3 innings in his last three starts. Snell tossed 5-2/3 scoreless innings in his last start against Boston, allowing three hits and two walks, yet he struck out just two batters.
Drew Pomeranz will get the ball for his second start of the season after missing time with a left-forearm flexor injury suffered in Spring Training. The southpaw threw 3-2/3 innings on Saturday, and allowed three runs on five hits and two walks in a 7-3 Boston win. He struck out seven. Pomeranz will make his ninth start against Tampa Bay on Friday, and is 4-2 with a 3.59 ERA, with 17 walks and 53 strikeouts in 42-2/3 combined innings of work. Key Matchups: Matt Duffy (4-15, 2B, BB), Brad Miller (10-19, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB), Wilson Ramos (1-2, 2B, RBI, BB), Denard Span (3-10, 2 BB)
Yonny Chirinos has pitched well in three of his four starts, although he still doesn’t have a win. Chirinos allowed two runs on four hits and two walks across 4-2/3 innings on Sunday against the Twins. He struck out six. The right-hander has not gone longer than 5-2/3 innings this season, however, he has fanned 21 in 24-2/3 innings this season.
David Price allowed four earned runs on nine hits and one walk, while striking out six over 7-2/3 innings on Sunday. Price worked efficiently over the span of his start only to give up a three-run homer to Khris Davis to ruin the effort. After two consecutive short outings (5 IP on 4/17 and 1 IP on 4/11), Price worked deep into the start, silencing any doubters who thought he may be harboring another elbow injury. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (4-15, 2B), Daniel Robertson (1-4, 2B)
The Rays have made the official announcement of who will get the start on Sunday. I will update this piece once that announcement has been made.
Rick Porcello allowed three runs on three hits and three walks Tuesday, while striking out nine over seven innings in Toronto. Porcello has now posted five quality starts in five outings, who gave up all three runs in the second inning without the benefit of any hard contact; the right-hander was nicked by a walk, a weak dribbler that found the outfield grass, an infield single, a wild pitch and two fielders’ choices. Beyond that, Porcello was practically spotless, retiring 16 of the final 18 batters faced. The right-hander gave up three runs on six hits over 7-1/3 innings against the Rays on April 7, after allowing just one-run over 5-1/3 innings against them on March 30. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (2-7, 2B, BB), Matt Duffy (5-16), Carlos Gomez (3-9, 2B, HR, RBI), Brad Miller (12-43, 5 2B, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 2 BB), Rob Refsnyder (1-3), Denard Span (16-42, 5 RBI, 2 BB), Joey Wendle (2-7, 2B)
— The Rays have activate 3B Matt Duffy (hamstring) from the 10-day DL, and option RHP Austin Pruitt — who hasn’t pitched since April 14 — back to Triple-A Durham.