Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Bronx, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

The Red Sox have left Toronto, and are now in Tampa Bay to take on the Rays. While this series isn't as meaningful as September series with the Rays past, Boston does have the opportunity to help play spoiler against the club that overtook them in the wild card race last year. It's not the end goal of the year at this point, but schadenfreude is one of the few things left to enjoy in a lost season. Especially when the manager doesn't seem to understand just what September games in a lost season should be for.

The Rays lost two of three to the Yankees, and now sit four games out of the second wild card spot behind Baltimore, and five back of division-leading New York in a tightly packed American League playoff race. They've overcome worse odds, but maybe the Sox can stop that from happening this time around, even if it's not to their own benefit.

Game 1: Alex Cobb (118-1/3 IP, 2.8 K/BB, 89 ERA+) vs. Aaron Cook (81-2/3 IP, 1.2 K/BB, 85 ERA+)

Game 2: Jeremy Hellickson (156-1/3 IP, 1.9 K/BB, 117 ERA+) vs. Felix Doubront (141 IP, 2.2 K/BB, 86 ERA+)

Game 3: Chris Archer (22-1/3 IP, 4.0 K/BB, 119 ERA+) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (40-1/3 IP, 2.1 K/BB, 62 ERA+)

Game 4: David Price (187-2/3 IP, 3.2 K/BB, 148 ERA+) vs. Clay Buchholz (174-2/3 IP, 2.0 K/BB, 101 ERA+)

Alex Cobb ended up throwing far more innings than expected thanks to injuries in the Rays' rotation, and has performed well overall in his first real taste of American League baseball. Cobb's issue to this point has mostly been on hits -- it's possible he just needs to figure out how to throw better strikes, as he throws plenty of them, with a 2.4 walk rate and 65 percent strikes on the year. He'll take on Aaron Cook, who now has struck out two batters per nine, and is dead to me and my enjoyment of baseball oddities.

Game two features Jeremy Hellickson, who continues to befuddle major-league lineups despite peripherals that say he shouldn't. He'll be taking on Felix Doubront, who has good-looking peripherals, but lacks the efficiency to make that count for him.

Chris Archer is in for his fourth start of the year, and is taking on Daisuke Matsuzaka, who earned himself yet another start with his 5-1/3 inning performance on Friday. Dice-K wasn't excellent or anything, but a strikeout per inning, with just one walk issued, is a much better result than what he managed against the Blue Jays in the start before that.

Last up, we've got the marquee pitching match-up of the series, with Cy Young contender David Price coming in to face Clay Buchholz, who has also been excellent in his last 20 starts. Buchholz has thrown 142 innings since turning things around against the Indians in early May, and owns a 3.23 ERA in that stretch along with a 0.7 homer rate and two-and-a-half as many strikeouts as walks. Price has been flat-out excellent, with no caveats necessary, and this has potential to be one of the better-pitched games of the season.

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