The Tampa Bay Rays will continue their road swing on Thursday, as they are set to open a three-game series with the Red Sox at Fenway. The Rays are coming off a brief two-game set against the Yankees, having suffered their fifth straight defeat with a 7-2 loss on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Red Sox swept a two-game Interleague series with Marlins, taking a 4-2 road win in 13 innings Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay dropped its fifth straight game since rallying for a win on Opening Day. They will now face a Boston team that has won five in a row (all on the road), including three out of four against the Rays last week.
In all fairness, though the Rays offense has not been very good, as exemplified by a -9.5 wRAA — which puts their offense somewhere between below average and poor — the Red Sox, honestly, haven’t been much better. Their -2.8 wRAA also finds their offense in the below average range. Tampa Bay held Boston to 10 runs over the first four games of the season (2.5 runs on average per game). Any success will hinge upon Tampa Bay’s pitching staff. If it can perform as it had during the Opening Series, the Rays could have a fighting chance. If not, well…
Rays manager Kevin Cash will lean on Yonny Chirinos (0-0, 0.00 ERA), Jacob Faria (0-0, 4.50 ERA), and the bullpen over the next three games and four days. Alex Cora will respond with David Price (1-0, 0.00 ERA), Rick Porcello (1-0, 1.69 ERA), and a pitcher to be named before Sunday’s finale.
Yonny Chirinos will get the ball in his second appearance of the season — the first start of his big league career. He enters Fenway with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.500 WHIP after he tossed four scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Sunday. He issued one walk and struck out three. He also hit two batters. Nevertheless, Chirinos is 36-17 with a 2.75 ERA over 70 minor league starts (474-1/3 innings). He walked 74 and fanned 363 in 98 career appearances (4.91 K/BB).
David Price will make his second consecutive start against his former team. On Friday, the southpaw threw seven scoreless innings and allowed four hits with no walks. He fanned five. All in all, Price will face the Rays for the 11th time in his career, and is 4-3 with a 3.45 ERA over 60 innings of work. He has walked 11 and struck out 64. Key matchups: CJ Cron (3-12, 2B), Kevin Kiermaier (3-11, 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (2-6)
Jacob Faria faces the Red Sox again after he allowed one run in four innings against them on Sunday. He got the early hook on Sunday after throwing just 83 pitches (53 for strikes). He posted a solid 3.43 ERA and 8.7 K/9 over 86.7 innings last season, but his 4.16 FIP and .265 BABIP suggests he might have slightly overachieved. Faria will be making his first career start at Fenway Park.
Rick Porcello completed 5-1/3 solid innings and notched a win on Saturday against the Rays after he allowed one earned run on six hits and one walk while striking out four. While the right-hander had a successful 2018 debut, it remains to be seen whether his success will continue; after all he generated just two swinging strikes and allowed eight flyballs. That outing was good, just don’t assume Porcello is back to his 2016 form. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (2-4, 2B, BB), Matt Duffy (5-13), Brad Miller (11-40, 4 2B, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 2 BB), Rob Refsnyder (1-3), Denard Span (14-38, 4 RBI, 2 BB)
The Rays are using Sunday as one of their bullpen days, and they will name a starter after Saturday’s game.