TMW more fans show up to watch the Rays take on the Twins than the Red Sox. (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

After a 4-3 homestand, including a series win against the Twins, the Tampa Bay Rays begin a three-game road series against the Red Sox Monday afternoon, in Boston. The Red Sox took two of three from the Guardians this past weekend.

At 86-51 on the season, Tampa Bay enters play 35-games above .500, and 7.5 games up on the Yankees in the division. They also are 9-7 against Boston this season, meaning a win would give the Rays the season series.

The Rays head out on the road for a nine-game trip having won five consecutive road games overall. They stand at 7-3 in their last 10 games. Austin Meadows has driven in eight runs in his last six games and is up to 96 RBI and a .780 OPS on the season. He drove in two more Sunday on a two-run line drive homer which gave the Rays a short-lived lead. Yet, even though the 26-year old slugger is having a great season, he has struggled against Boston pitching, collecting just four RBI in 54 at-bats.

Wander Franco extended his on-base streak to 35 consecutive games on Sunday. It’s the third-longest streak in MLB history for a player 20 years of age or younger. Brandon Lowe homered for the second straight game, giving him 33 on the season — tied for the seventh-most in a season in franchise history. Both players have been productive against the Red Sox, as Franco is hitting .313 with a 1.046 OPS, and Lowe has five homers and a 1.043 OPS.

We are all well aware of what Boston can do, and the Rays will be cautious of JD Martinez, who has been an RBI machine against them this season — accumulating 15 RBI in 68 at-bats. The veteran slugger tallied five hits in four games in last week’s series at the Trop and has 25 homers, 88 RBI, and a .868 OPS on the season.

The Red Sox took the final two meetings of last week’s four-game series, and have played better of late. Yet, they are still dealing with some lingering COVID issues, and are expected to be without Xander Bogaerts and reliever Matt Barnes — both of whom joined Kiké Hernández, Jarren Duran, Christian Arroyo, Josh Taylor, Hirokazu Sawamura, Martín Pérez, and infielder Yairo Muñoz last week.

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Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Ryan Yarbrough (8-4, 4.50 ERA), Drew Rasmussen (1-1, 3.38 ERA), and Shane McClanahan (9-5, 3.76 ERA). Alex Cora will counter with Chris Sale (3-0, 2.53 ERA), Eduardo Rodriguez (11-7, 4.88 ERA), and likely Nathan Eovaldi (10-8, 3.73 ERA).

Ryan Yarbrough got the start against the Red Sox last Tuesday and cruised through six solid frames, allowing a pair of runs on four hits, while striking out three on 78 pitches (55 strikes, 71% strike rate, 10% SwStr%). The left-hander found himself in an early jam when Boston took a brief lead in the first inning. With two out, J.D. Martinez doubled to left, before Xander Bogaerts looped an RBI base hit to right. Then in the sixth, Kyle Schwarber unloaded on a 71 mph, 1-2 curveball that hung up over the heart of the plate. Aside from that though, Yarbrough surgically dissected Boston’s depleted lineup, allowing his teammates to go to work. On the season, the lefty maintains a 4.50 ERA and a 4.32 FIP, with a 1.17 WHIP, and a 4.52 K/BB across 134.0 innings.

Chris Sale tossed six innings while allowing two runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts on Wednesday against the Rays. The left-hander gave up a two-run homer to Wander Franco in the fourth inning, which ultimately constituted the entirety of the damage against him in this one. His superficial outcomes have looked great since returning from the Injured List on Aug. 14, going at least five innings in each of his four starts without allowing more than two runs. However, he should keep the bad luck dragons in the back of his head. The left-hander boasts a superb 2.53 ERA over that stretch, but a 4.48 FIP belies that number. Sale has been dependent upon the sixth-worst defense in baseball history (since 1900) for much of his success, and you would have to assume that some of that contact will fall into play sooner or later. On the season, the left-hander maintains a 1.13 WHIP and a 4.80 K/BB across 21.1 innings. Key Matchups: Nelson Cruz (11-32, 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Yandy Díaz (4-9, 2 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, BB), Wander Franco (1-3, HR, 2 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (6-20, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Jordan Luplow (1-3), Manuel Margot (2-3)

Drew Rasmussen allowed one run on three hits and no walks while striking out five across four innings Wednesday against the Red Sox. The 26-year-old held his own, with the only blemish coming as a result of a second-inning RBI single by Christian Vazquez. Since being moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation on August 12, Rasmussen has posted an impressive 1.59 ERA and 0.76 WHIP over 17 innings. Overall, the right-hander maintains a 3.38 ERA and a 3.08 FIP, with a 1.20 WHIP, and a 2.74 K/BB across 56.0 innings.

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched six-plus scoreless innings against the Rays on Thursday, allowing four hits and one walk, with six strikeouts. After allowing a combined eight runs across his last two turns, Rodriguez bounced back nicely in what was his third scoreless start in his last six outings. It was an impressive showing for a left-hander who allowed only five baserunners before being pulled with two runners on in the seventh inning. Overall, he maintains a 4.88 ERA and a 3.41 FIP, with a 1.36 WHIP, and a 4.00 K/BB across 132.2 innings. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (3-9), Yandy Díaz (7-15, 2B, 2BB), Brandon Lowe (4-13, 3 HR, 4 RBI), Manuel Margot (3-10), Francisco Mejía (2-5, BB, RBI)

Shane McClanahan allowed four runs on eight hits with two walks and eight strikeouts across five innings on Thursday against Boston. McClanahan ran into trouble early Thursday, surrendering four runs across five innings, all of which came via singles. Despite tying a season-high four runs allowed, McClanahan also tied a career-high eight strikeouts. On the season, he maintains a 3.76 ERA and a 3.27 FIP, with a 1.32 WHIP, and a 3.79 K/BB across 105.1 innings.

Nathan Eovaldi allowed three runs on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts across 6.1 innings versus Cleveland on Friday. The right-hander gave up a pair of home runs in the contest. Eovaldi has allowed multiple homers in three starts this season, all of which have come in his last seven turns through the rotation. Despite his trouble with the long ball, it was a solid start for the 31-year-old, who now has a 3.73 ERA and a 2.92 FIP on the season, with a 1.17 WHIP and 5.82 K/BB through 156.2 innings. Key Matchups: Manuel Margot (1-4), Austin Meadows (7-18, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Francisco Mejía (2-7, 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Joey Wendle (4-16, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB)


— David Hess has been recalled from Triple-A Durham to give the Rays a fresh arm in the ‘pen, while Dietrich Enns was optioned back to Durham after throwing three innings on Saturday. A 40-man spot was open because Chris Mazza is on the COVID-19 IL.

— RHP Matt Wisler (finger) threw a scoreless frame Sunday for Durham, allowing a hit while striking out three. Wisler could be activated during this trip.

— Ji-Man Choi (hamstring) and Brett Phillips (sprained ankle) — both on the 10-Day IL — have joined Tampa Bay for the road trip. Like Wisler, Choi can be activated at any point, while Phillips is not eligible until Friday.

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