Following a series win in Detroit, the Tampa Bay Rays are headed back east, to Boston, where they will start a four-game, three-day series against the division-rival Red Sox, on Friday. The Rays start the series 1-1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Yankees, and 6-1/2 games ahead of Boston, who is in third place. Both teams are 6-4 in their last 10 games.
The series is important for both due to their respective rank in the AL Wildcard race (No. 1 and No. 2).
Yes, I know it is still early in the season, however, if the playoffs were to start today, Tampa Bay would have a stranglehold on hosting the AL Wildcard game. With that in mind, things could change quickly with a poor series at Fenway Park. Boston enters the four-game set tied with the Texas Rangers for the final postseason spot in the American League. A series loss would allow Boston to make up ground in the division standings, as well as the Wildcard standings. The Rays are seeking a series split in the very least.
As with the set against the Twins two series ago, the Rays pitching staff will need to step up to keep the wolves at bay — especially in the second and fourth games, when they are slated to face former Ray David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez. If Tampa Bay can keep those contests close, they should have a chance against Boston’s relief corps, which has performed to a combined 3.95 ERA and 3.66 FIP over the last 30 days, and a 5.40 ERA and a 4.09 FIP over the last 14.
The Rays are 2-3 against the Red Sox this season, and 2-0 at Fenway.
Over the next four days, Kevin Cash will lean on bulk guys Yonny Chirinos (6-2, 3.25 ERA) and Ryan Yarbrough (4-2, 6.23 ERA) — either as traditional starters or following openers — a pitcher to be named before the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday, and Blake Snell (3-5, 3.68 ERA). Alex Cora will respond with Rick Porcello (4-5, 4.76 ERA), David Price (3-2, 2.83 ERA), a pitcher to be named before the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday, and Eduardo Rodriguez (6-3, 4.88 ERA).
Yonny Chirinos gave up four runs on nine hits and one walk over 5-1/3 innings on Saturday. He struck out seven. Chirinos allowed two runs on back-to-back doubles by Jorge Polanco and Marwin Gonzalez in the third inning, then was nicked for single tallies in the fourth and fifth frames, the latter on a Marwin Gonzalez solo homer. Still, he has a solid 3.25 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP to go along with a 4.45 K/BB. Chirinos is 0-1 with a 4.24 ERA in two career starts (four games total) against the Red Sox.
Rick Porcello allowed five runs on nine hits over 4-2/3 innings against the Yankees on Saturday. He struck out five and walked one. Porcello was largely BABIP’d, although he did give up a costly two-run homer to Gary Sanchez’s in the fifth inning which proved to be the difference in the game. The outing broke a string of eight consecutive starts of at least five innings for the right-hander. Porcello carries a 4.76 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and a 2.43 K/BB across 68 innings this season. He is 14-10 with a 3.42 ERA in 29 starts against the Rays, and 0-0 with a 3.18 ERA against Tampa Bay this season. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (3-10, 2B, 3B, RBI), Travis d’Arnaud (1-3, HR, 2 RBI), Avisail Garcia (9-24, 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (3-4, 3B, 2 RBI, BB), Daniel Robertson (2-7), Mike Zunino (3-10, HR, 2 RBI)
Ryan Yarbrough fell on the sword for the Rays bullpen on Sunday, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out four across seven innings against the Twins. Yarbrough was hit hard throughout the middle of his start, with all of his earned runs coming in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. He didn’t allow a home run, yet the left-hander gave up a bases-clearing double to C.J. Cron which accounted for three of his seven charged runs. Yarbrough is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in six games (one start) against the Red Sox, and 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in 8.0 total innings of work at Fenway Park.
TBA vs Rays
TBA vs Red Sox
David Price held the Yankees to two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out six across 6-1/3 innings of work on Sunday. The former Ray blanked New York over the first three frames before a fourth-inning wobble, when the southpaw gave up a home run to Luke Voit, followed by three consecutive singles to load the bases. Gio Urshela followed with a sacrifice fly to score Gary Sanchez, allowing New York to cut the deficit to one run. Price was able to limit the damage when Aaron Hicks got caught stealing home for the final out of the frame. In spite of the messy inning, he looked sharp overall. He carries a 2.83 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 4.92 K/BB into his matchup against Tampa Bay. Price is 5-5 with a 3.26 ERA in 15 starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Christian Arroyo (1-4), Yandy Diaz (3-7, HR, RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (6-21, 2 2B, HR, RBI, BB)
Blake Snell allowed a run in the first inning of his last start, and it appeared that he had settled in after escaping a two-on, one-out jam in the second. However, while the left-hander struck out eight and continued to pound the strike zone (65 of his 95 pitches landed for strikes, 68% strike rate), the Tigers started a rally in the fifth inning with three consecutive one-out hits which were followed by a walk. Miguel Cabrera capped the inning with a grand slam, knocking Snell out of the game. Snell entered Tuesday’s start having allowed only six runs over his last 30-1/3 innings, a span of five starts. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner is 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA in eight career starts against the Red Sox, but 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts at Fenway.
Eduardo Rodriguez allowed two runs on six hits over 5-2/3 innings on Wednesday while striking out seven. The southpaw fell just short of his sixth quality start of the season, getting the hook after 89 pitches (60 strikes, 67% strike rate). Rodriguez continues to be a strikeout machine despite his inability to pitch deep into games — he’s fanned at least five batters in 10 consecutive turns. Even so, Rodriguez is 0-2 with a 6.42 ERA in seven starts against the Rays, and 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in one start against Tampa Bay this season. He’ll take a 4.88 ERA and 3.65 K/BB over 66-1/3 innings into the series finale on Sunday. Key Matchups: Yandy Diaz (2-2, BB), Brandon Lowe (1-3, HR, RBI), Austin Meadows (1-3), Tommy Pham (3-8, 2B, RBI), Daniel Robertson (2-5, 2B, 2 RBI)
— Prior to the start of the series, the Rays recalled RHP Casey Sadler from Triple-A Durham and optioned RHP Hunter Wood to make room on the 25-man roster.
— Tampa Bay will recall a 26th man for Saturday’s doubleheader.
— It bears mentioning: