After winning three straight in Toronto, thus winning the five-game series against the Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays will start a three-game set in Boston on Monday. The Red Sox dropped two-of-three to the Cubs over the weekend.
At 43-36 on the season, Tampa Bay enters play seven games over .500 and 1.5 games behind the second place Red Sox in the division. The Rays won two of three against Boston at the Trop in April.
Tampa Bay is heating up after a frustrating slump at the plate. They had recently lost four in a row due to a lack of runs, however, the Rays exploded for 24 runs in the final three games in Toronto this past weekend. All told, the Rays have collected at least 13 hits in each of their last three games and launched a total of eight homers during those victories — including three in the fifth inning yesterday. Yandy Diaz, Francisco Mejia, Harold Ramirez, Isaac Paredes, Randy Arozarena, and Ji-Man Choi have gone off over the last week, with each of them performing to (at least) a 140 wRC+. They’ve accounted for 21 of the Rays’ 30 runs batted in over the last seven days.
Wander Franco appears to be slipping out of his offensive funk, too. Franco has driven in three runs, and scored four, over the last seven days, while collecting a home run, a double, and four singles.
Boston has now dropped two consecutive series. They lost two of three against the Blue Jays, followed by a series loss in Chicago. They avoided the sweep with a win on Sunday, however, the pitching had been slipping on their most recent road trip. That’s not the only thing to regress, though, as Boston performed 12% below league average with an 88 wRC+ over the last seven days on the back of a combined .249 BA/.319 OBP/.347 SLG/.676 OPS/.296 wOBA and a (not so powerful) .099 ISO.
If ever there was a time for the Rays to make hay in the division it’s now, with Tampa Bay on the upswing and Boston on the down swell.
Over the next three games, Kevin Cash will lean on the bullpen (23-16, 3.35 ERA), Jeffrey Springs (3-2, 2.25 ERA), and Corey Kluber (3-5, 3.91 ERA). Alex Cora with counter with a bullpen (17-16, 3.74 ERA) day of his own, Nick Pivetta (8-5, 3.23 ERA), and a pitcher to be named before the series finale.
The Rays Bullpen has been spotty over the last 14 days, performing to a 5.30 ERA and a 6.69 FIP. Jalen Beeks (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will open the game for Tampa Bay. Beeks allowed a solo homer to Rowdy Tellez over two frames in his last outing on Wednesday. Brooks Raley and Ryan Thompson, who were placed on the restricted list, are expected to be activated before the game. Neither Beeks nor Colin Poche pitched in the last series, while Matt Wisler, Jason Adam, Calvin Faucher, and Shawn Armstrong only pitched once apiece in the five-game four-day set.
Boston’s Bullpen has been good over the last couple of weeks, performing to a 2.66 ERA and 3.29 FIP, however, it hasn’t been as good as Tampa Bay’s pitching staff overall. Austin Davis (1-1, 2.45 ERA) will open for the Red Sox. Davis has thrown just one frame since June 18th, and that came on the 27th in a 7-2 loss at Toronto. Kutter Crawford (1-2, 6.41 ERA) was scratched from his minor league start and could throw in bulk. Crawford threw three scoreless frames against Tampa Bay in April and has thrown as many as six innings in a game this season…although that came at Triple-A on the 28th of June.
Jeffrey Springs allowed three runs on three solo shots among seven hits over six innings on Friday against the Pirates. He struck out a season-high nine without walking a batter. The Rays staked Springs to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but the southpaw’s inability to keep the ball in the park ended up costing him a win despite his otherwise impressive performance. He’s served up multiple homers in three of his last six starts, but he’s otherwise been sharp, maintaining a 2.25 ERA and a 3.35 FIP on the season, with a 1.00 WHIP and a 5.00 K/BB across 60 innings. Springs is a career 0-0 with a 1.17 ERA in eight outings against Boston.
Nick Pivetta allowed two runs on five hits, three walks, and a hit-by-pitch with five strikeouts in six innings against Toronto on Wednesday. Pivetta has logged quality starts in all but one of his last 11 starts. He gave up an RBI single to Santiago Espinal and a solo home run to George Springer to account for the runs. Pivetta maintains a 3.23 ERA and 3.68 FIP, with a 1.12 WHIP, and 2.84 K/BB across 94.2 innings in (16 starts) overall. The right-hander relies primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball that has good “rising” action, and a 77 mph worm-killer curveball that has exceptional bite, while also mixing in an 85 mph slider. He is 1-2 with a 2.95 ERA in four career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (1-4, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-8, 2B, BB), Harold Ramirez (2-2, 3B)
Corey Kluber allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks in three innings of work on Friday while striking out just one Blue Jay. Kluber faced the minimum through two innings but wound up facing 11 batters in a five-run third. Six of the first seven batters in that frame reached base, with five of them doing so via a double. He was replaced by Phoenix Sanders to start the fourth. If there’s a positive here for Kluber, it’s that the poor outing doesn’t appear to be part of any sort of trend, as he’d given up a total of four earned runs across his last three starts. Kluber maintains a 3.91 ERA and 3.60 FIP, with a 1.16 WHIP, and 5.15 K/BB across 76.0 innings in (15 starts) overall. Kluber allowed four runs on four hits (including a home run) and a walk in one five-inning outing against the Red Sox in April.