The American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays welcome the cellar-dwelling Boston Red Sox into Tropicana Field on Friday evening, when they open a three-game series.
The Rays enter play with a commanding eight-game lead over the reigning World Series champs after compiling a 14-5 record through the first 19 games of the season. In spite of their 6-5, extra-innings loss on Thursday, the red-hot Rays are coming off of a series win at home versus the Baltimore Orioles and they have won all of their series so far this season. Over the last 10 games, Tampa Bay has gone 8-2 with a 2.87 ERA and has outscored opponents by 34 runs.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have won just six of their first 19 contests, and they’ve dug themselves into quite a hole just three weeks into the regular season. Over the last 10 games, Boston has gone 4-6, with a .209 batting average, a 5.13 ERA, and has been outscored by opponents by 16 runs. The mighty Sox dropped their most recent series against the Yankees, averaging just 1-1/2 runs along the way.
Last season the Rays went 8-11 against their AL East rivals, however, they went 4-2 against them in the second half, including a series sweep in August.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will lean on opener Ryne Stanek (0-0, 1.93 ERA), who will likely be followed by Ryan Yarbrough (2-1, 4.82 ERA), Charlie Morton (2-0, 2.18 ERA), and Tyler Glasnow (4-0, 1.13 ERA). Alex Cora will respond with Eduardo Rodriguez (1-2, 7.98 ERA), Rick Porcello (0-3, 11.12 ERA), and former Ray David Price (1-1, 3.79 ERA).
Ryne Stanek worked around a hit while striking out three in one inning of work as the opener on Wednesday. The right-hander gave way to Yonny Chirinos after throwing 14 pitches (10 for strikes, 71% strike rate). Stanek now has a 1.93 ERA and 6.5 K/BB through 9-1/3 innings.
Ryan Yarbrough picked up the win after tossing two scoreless frames and striking out one on Friday. The southpaw was efficient on the mound, needing just 16 total pitches (12 strikes) to get through six batters. Yarbrough was coming off a disastrous outing Saturday against San Francisco (allowing four runs allowed across three innings) but managed to get back on track in the 11-7 victory.
Eduardo Rodriguez picked up the win Friday after allowing two runs on three hits and while striking out eight over 6-2/3 innings. Rodriguez surrendered a two-run blast in the seventh inning, yet it turned out to be one of the few mistakes he made on the night. He struggled through his first two outings of the season (11 runs allowed across eight innings) but managed to return to form. Rodriguez relies primarily on a whiffy 93 mph four-seam fastball with natural sinking action and a hard 88 mph worm-killer changeup, while also mixing in an 88 mph cutter with natural sink and cutting action and a whiffy 92 mph sinker. Key Matchups: Tommy Pham (2-5, 2B, RBI), Daniel Robertson (1-2)
Charlie Morton allowed one run on four hits and three walks while striking out four over 4-2/3 innings on Sunday against Toronto. Morton surrendered the only run of his start in the first inning, but he managed to close out his day with 3-2/3 scoreless frames. He was pulled from the game needing one more out to qualify for the win. The right-hander hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his first four outings of the season and owns a 2.18 ERA with 25 strikeouts across 20-2/3 innings.
Rick Porcello allowed three runs on six hits and five walks while fanning two in a loss to the Orioles on Saturday. Porcello, who threw just 48 of 90 pitches for strikes (53% strike rate), had traffic in every inning and now has walked 12 in 11-1/3 innings. He told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald that he’s rushing his delivery but hasn’t been able to correct it. Porcello relies primarily on a 92 mph worm-killer four-seam fastball and a whiffy 90 mph sinker, while also mixing in an 82 mph palm ball changeup, an 86 mph slider with 12-6 movement, and a 76 mph curveball with glove-side movement. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-4), Ji-Man Choi (2-8, 2B, RBI), Avisail Garcia (8-22, 2B, HR, 6 RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (1-1), Daniel Robertson (2-5), Joey Wendle (5-12, 2B, BB), Mike Zunino (3-10, HR, 2 RBI)
Tyler Glasnow tied the longest outing by a Tampa Bay hurler in the first 17 games of the season, although you never would have guessed his final line based on his first three innings of work.
The Orioles, who have outscored opponents 16-5 in the first inning, jumped ahead early against Glasnow. With one out and none on, Trey Mancini singled to right-center and moved up to second on a Dwight Smith Junior’s single to right. Then, Rio Ruiz hit a two-out RBI single to right-center, scoring Mancini. Baltimore’s hitters spat on Glasnow’s curveball, hunted fastballs, attacked him early in the count, and worked him for 26 pitches in the first inning alone.
After Glasnow worked around a leadoff single in the second, Baltimore extended the lead in the third. Smith reached on an infield hit to second; Brandon Lowe had difficulty getting the ball out of his glove. Smith swiped second, then came home on Renato Nunez’s double that deflected off Yandy Diaz and traveled up the third base line.
From that point on, however, Glasnow quietly went to work and threw up four consecutive zeroes — working around a base hit by coaxing a double play in the fourth inning and retiring the final 10 batters he would face in a row.
Glasnow didn’t walk a batter and scattered seven hits while striking out three. He threw 87 pitches (61 strikes, 70% strike rate) total and just 61 over the final six frames.
David Price earned his first win of the season on Sunday, allowing three hits while striking out seven over seven scoreless innings. Price allowed four runs in each of his first two outings but was rewarded for his efforts in his last outing. The former Ray pounded the zone, firing 64 of 92 pitches for strikes (70% strike rate). Price will carry 20 punchouts over 19 frames into his upcoming start on Sunday. Price relies primarily on a whiffy 93 mph sinker, a firm 85 mph circle changeup, and a 93 mph four-seam fastball while mixing in the occasional 90 mph cutter. Key Matchups: Yandy Diaz (1-3), Avisail Garcia (4-15, HR, 5 RBI), Micahel Perez (1-3)