After winning their first series of the season, two-games-to-one against the Marlins, the Tampa Bay Rays will kick-start a three-game set in Boston. The Red Sox are coming off a series sweep by the Baltimore Orioles.
Tampa Bay opened the season strongly by taking care of business against Miami. Granted, the pitching didn’t look quite Rays-like in the series finale, they, however, managed to come away with a pair of wins to solidify the opening series victory.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox opened their season with a .145 BA/.206 OBP/.177 SLG/.383 OBP slash line on the heels of a five-run assault on Baltimore’s hurlers. As it was written elsewhere, “you’d have to go all the way back to 1948 to find the last time the Red Sox opened with a 0-3 start at Fenway Park. They got shut out in the opener before dropping a 4-2 loss and eventually getting plowed 11-3 in the finale.”
The Rays certainly didn’t blow anyone away, offensively speaking, last season, however, they held their own. Still, Tampa Bay compensated for their average to slightly above average offense by suffocating the opposition with their defense, while the pitching rotation ranked third in the league in ERA — averaging the sixth-most punch outs. Yet, they won’t go far this season if they continue to relinquish 16 runs over the course of a three-game series. That being said, they could find themselves in a position to stabilize the pitching staff and get back on track against the 7 wRC+ performing Red Sox heading into their first homestand at the end of the week.
Tampa Bay won all four games in Boston last season, and have won eight straight overall dating back to 2019.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will call upon Michael Wacha, Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 0.00 ERA), and Ryan Yarbrough (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Alex Cora will counter with Nick Pivetta, Martin Pérez, and Nathan Eovaldi (0-1, 1.69 ERA).
Michael Wacha finished Spring Training with a 0.60 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, .176 BAA, and 6.00 K/BB across 15 innings of work (five appearances). In his final tuneup before the start of the regular season, Wacha threw three frames against Detroit last Tuesday — a game in which he pitched as the bulk reliever behind Cody Reed. There is a possibility he could be deployed behind an opener on Monday. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in one career start against the Red Sox.
Nick Pivetta, who spent the majority of his career in the National League, allowed six runs on six hits and three walks while striking out three across four innings in one of his final spring outings. Prior to that, the right-hander had been sharp during his first three Spring Training turns before falling victim to spotty command. Pivetta has never faced the Rays, although he thrived in his only start at Fenway last season, limiting Baltimore to one run over five innings. Last season, Pivetta relied primarily on a 93 mph four-seam fastball and an 80 mph curveball, while also mixing in an 86 mph slider and an 86 mph changeup.
Tyler Glasnow made his first-ever Opening Day start and was dominant, allowing only a first-inning, two-out infield dribbler to third off the bat of Jesus Aguilar.
Leaning heavily on his four-seam fastball (40 thrown, 24 strikes, 60% strike rate, 18% SwStr%) and his newfound cut-slider (26 thrown, 16 strikes, 62% strike rate, 19% SwStr%), Glasnow kept Miami’s over-anxious batters off-balance, limiting hard contact while coaxing seven ground outs to three fly ball outs. His fastball sat at 98 mph, although he hit the century mark on more than one occasion. And after Glasnow relinquished his lone hit, he retired his next 16 batters in a row, collecting six strikeouts overall. The right-hander threw 57 of 76 pitches for strikes (75% strike rate) and, impressively, found himself in just two three-ball counts.
Martin Pérez allowed five runs (none earned) on five hits while striking out four back on March 25 against Minnesota. He was the victim of fielding errors from Michael Chavis and Rafael Devers, although Pérez did manage to throw more strikes in this outing after he walked five during his previous start. He thrived against Tampa Bay in 2020, going 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA, however, Pérez didn’t get any wins at home last season, going 0-4 with a 5.46 ERA in six starts at Fenway. Last season, he relied primarily on an 89 mph cutter and an 84 mph circle changeup, while also mixing in a 92 mph sinker, a 93 mph four-seam fastball, and a 78 mph curveball. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (1-3), Michael Brosseau (4-10, 3 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Yandy Díaz (5-15, 2 2B, 2 RBI), Brandon Lowe (2-5, 2 RBI), Mike Zunino (6-22, 3 HR, 5 RBI)
Ryan Yarbrough got the start for Tampa Bay and retired the first nine batters in order by doing what he is wont to do: forcing weak contact. In fact, the left-hander limited hard contact all night; just two at-bats resulted in exit velocities of +95 mph, and even then both resulted in fly-ball outs. Yarbrough allowed base runners in the fourth inning, yet a Garrett Cooper double play ended the threat. Then in the fifth inning, he allowed a two-out base hit to Jazz Chisholm Jr., but a ground ball out by Jorge Alfaro whacked Miami’s mole, ending the inning. After giving up a two-out double to Starling Marte that bounced down the third base line, Yarbrough was lifted. He was efficient, throwing 65 pitches (41 strikes, 63% strike rate) total, and leaned heavily on his cutter/changeup combo while sprinkling in a few sinkers and curveballs for good measure. Yarbrough’s final line: 5.2 IP/4 H/3 K/0 BB/4 groundouts/5 fly ball outs.
Nathan Eovaldi gave up one run on four hits and a walk over 5-1/3 innings while striking out four. The right-hander found himself in a pitchers’ duel with John Means and exited the game in the sixth inning with the score still knotted up at zero, but Eovaldi got saddled with the loss when former Rays hurler Matt Andriese allowed his inherited runner to score. Eovaldi is coming off a strong 2020, posting career highs in strikeouts and walk rates. Even so, Eovaldi is 2-5 with a 5.48 ERA in 10 career outings (eight starts) against Tampa Bay. Last season, he relied primarily on a 98 mph four-seam fastball and a 93 mph cutter, while also mixing in an 80 mph curveball, an 88 mph splitter, and an 89 mph slider. Key Matchups: Michael Brosseau (1-1), Yandy Díaz (2-7, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (3-11, 3B, 4 RBI), Manuel Margo (1-2), Austin Meadows (5-9, 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI), Joey Wendle (5-7, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI)
— The Rays placed LHP Ryan Sherriff on the restricted list for private reasons over the weekend. Aside from C Joseph Odom, who was temporarily recalled to fill Sherriff’s spot on the roster, the Rays have not yet announced a long-term substitute for the loss of Sherriff. Shane McClanahan and Josh Fleming are two southpaws that could be recalled, although both are being stretched out for a starting role.
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