After winning four games in a row, the Tampa Bay Rays are ready to open up an important three-game set in Boston on Tuesday. Tampa Bay swept Baltimore on the road over the weekend, while Boston dropped three of four to the Blue Jays in Toronto.
At 68-44 on the season, the Rays enter play a season-high 24-games above .500 and four games ahead of the Red Sox in the division. Boston and Oakland maintain the final two Wildcard spots, 2.5 games ahead of the Yankees.
On Sunday, in the series finale against Baltimore, Tampa Bay got two hits each from Brandon Lowe (run, RBI), Brett Phillips (two runs, five RBI), and Austin Meadows (run, RBI). Meadows added his 21st homer of the season, while Phillips hit two home runs including a grand slam — his second granny in 11 games. Nelson Cruz’s bat also appears to be warming up, as Boomstick went 4-for-16 over the life of the series, with two homers, a pair of doubles, four runs, and seven RBI.
Boston dropped three of four on the road to Toronto after blowing a big lead Sunday. The Red Sox led 7-2 after four innings only to lose. J.D. Martinez (two runs, three RBI) had four hits while Kevin Plawecki (run, three RBI) added three to pace a 16-hit attack. Yet, Matt Barnes took the loss after he surrendered two runs on one hit and a walk with one strikeout in a third of an inning. Boston has lost nine of the previous 11 games including three-in-a-row to the Rays three series ago.
After being swept in the first meeting between the two, the Rays have gone 5-1 against the Red Sox and hold a 5-4 record against Boston, with a +5 run differential across nine meetings. Tampa Bay will head to Minnesota after the series with anywhere from a one-game lead to a seven-game lead atop the division pending the outcome of the next three games. Put simply, this is an important series for the Rays, who can open up a little more ground in the AL East with a series win.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Luis Patiño (2-3, 4.42 ERA), and Josh Fleming (9-5, 4.12 ERA), while Drew Rasmussen (1-1, 4.15 ERA) is expected to open for Tampa Bay in the series finale. Alex Cora will counter with Eduardo Rodríguez (8-6, 5.33 ERA), Nathan Eovaldi (9-7, 4.07 ERA), and Nick Pivetta (8-5, 4.34 ERA).
Luis Patiño got the start Wednesday against the Mariners and wasn’t what you’d call efficient. The right-hander put up a 5.0 IP/5 H/3 R/2 BB/3 K line on 100 pitches (65 strikes, 65% strike rate). He allowed two solo shots. Of his 65 strikes, 25 were foul balls, as Seattle’s hitters were able to foul off slider after slider until they got a hanger, or until Patiño went back to his fastball. He had a 27% whiff rate on his slider, while his season average is 43.8%. On the season, Patiño maintains a 4.26 ERA and a 3.66 FIP, with a 1.17 WHIP, and a 3.60 K/BB across 31.2 innings. The right-hander has not faced the Red Sox this season.
Eduardo Rodríguez allowed six runs on seven hits and four walks with eight strikeouts over 3.1 innings on Thursday in Toronto. Rodríguez flashed quality stuff at times, although he struggled with command en route to a season-high four walks. The Blue Jays ambushed him for three runs in the first inning — two coming on a Teoscar Hernandez double — and eventually chased the southpaw from the game after he issued a bases-loaded walk to Marcus Semien in the fourth. It was the second straight abbreviated outing for Rodríguez, who departed his previous outing after one inning due to migraine issues. He owns a 5.60 ERA and a 3.38 FIP, with a 1.41 WHIP, and a 4.09 K/BB across 99.2 innings on the season. Rodríguez is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in one start against Tampa Bay this season. Key Matchups: Yandy Díaz (6-10, 2B, 2 BB), Wander Franco (1-2, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (3-9, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Manuel Margot (2-6), Francisco Mejía (2-5, RBI, BB)
Josh Fleming allowed two runs on five hits while striking out six in five innings, on Wednesday against the Mariners. The left-hander was removed in the sixth inning after allowing a leadoff triple to Mitch Haniger, who ultimately scored on a sacrifice fly. Fleming has thrown five innings and struck out at least six in consecutive turns after failing to reach either mark in his previous four outings. The 25-year-old has developed into a valuable starter for the Rays, posting a 4.12 ERA and a 4.18 FIP, with a 1.18 WHIP and a 2.59 K/BB in 87.1 innings this season. Fleming is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in one, five-inning outing (in which he surrendered three runs) against the Red Sox on the season.
Nathan Eovaldi surrendered seven runs on eight hits and two walks over 4.2 innings Friday against the Blue Jays. He struck out four. The right-hander seemed to be in firm control as he blanked Toronto through four frames, but the wheels fell off in the fifth as the Jays sent 14 men to the plate and scored nine times. Eovaldi has been tagged for at least five runs in three of his last five starts, saddling him with a 5.09 ERA since the beginning of July despite a strong 1.19 WHIP and 8.00 K/BB through 35.1 innings over that stretch. The Rays torched Eovaldi for seven runs on eight hits (including a homer) and two walks across 4.2 innings on August 6. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (5-13, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Wander Franco (1-3, 3B, RBI), Manuel Margot (1-4), Austin Meadows (6-15, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Francisco Mejía (2-5, 2B, HR, 2 RBI)
Nick Pivetta tossed six scoreless innings of one-hit ball on Saturday against Toronto. He walked one and struck out five. Pivetta was coming off four consecutive outings in which he gave up at least three runs, so this was an excellent bounce-back performance for him. Even so, Pivetta has only two quality starts across six appearances since the beginning of July, a span in which he’s posted a 4.09 ERA. Overall, he maintains a 4.34 ERA and a 4.19 FIP on the season, with a 1.27 WHIP, and a 2.62 K/BB across 118.1 innings. After being blanked by Pivetta twice in ’21, the Rays finally got to him on August 7, tagging the right-hander for three runs on three hits (including a homer) and a walk across 4.2 innings. Key Matchup: Brandon Lowe (1-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB)
— Reliever DJ Johnson is headed to the Injured List (more on his injury here) with a right shoulder sprain. Rays manager Kevin Cash said Johnson is getting second opinions, although the shoulder injury is “pretty severe” and he will miss significant time.
— Louis Head, who was optioned back to Triple-A Durham on Saturday, was recalled from Durham and will take Johnson’s place on the roster.
— LHP Ryan Yarbrough, who was scheduled to pitch Wednesday, has been placed on the COVID-19 IL.
— Randy Arozarena said he was on the COVID-19 IL because his wife and daughter tested positive. Randy’s wife is eight months pregnant and because of that has been hospitalized. Arozarena says she is doing better and had someone with her, so he felt comfortable rejoining the team.
— Right-hander Nick Anderson threw 15 or so pitches to hitters in Port Charlotte after a planned FCL appearance was scrubbed when weather postponed the game. He is expected to pitch for Triple-A Durham later this week.
— Chris Archer threw a 15- to 20-pitch bullpen session at Tropicana Field. If he feels good Tuesday, he will head back to Durham to resume his rehab assignment, which was paused when he left his last rehab outing (8/1) due to hip discomfort.