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Red Sox vs. Rays Series Preview

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A look ahead to the weekend series against the Rays.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

DRays Bay

The Opponent in one sentence

The Rays have fallen a bit below .500 thanks to a shaky pitching staff but have a lineup that is capable of doing damage and have a positive run differential on the year.

Record

17-20

Head-to-Head Matchup

Red Sox 3, Rays 1

Trend

Down. The Rays are only one game below .500 for the month of May, but a large chunk of that is from taking three of four in the month’s first series against Miami. Tampa has lost five of their last seven, losing three of four against Kansas City after losing two of three against Toronto. It’s worth noting that the Royals and the Blue Jays are two of the most disappointing teams in the league so far this year and both series were in Tampa.

Pitching Matchups

5/12: Rick Porcello vs. Alex Cobb, 7:10 PM ET

Porcello is starting to turn it on behind Chris Sale in the Red Sox rotation, and will look to continue this against the Rays. Over his last four starts, he has gone at least six innings in each and has 27 strikeouts to just five walks in 26 23 innings. Of course, the start prior to this run was against the Rays and it included Porcello allowing eight runs in four home runs mixed in there in just 4 13 innings. It seems safe to bet on a better performance this time out.

Cobb is looking to complete his first full(ish) season since 2014 and the results have been solid thus far. Through seven starts, his 3.56 ERA is above average and he’s inducing grounders on half of the balls in play he allows. On the other hand, the peripherals don’t quite back it up. He is striking out fewer than six batters per nine innings and has allowed seven home runs in those seven starts. Cobb started against Boston on April 16 and allowed four runs in five innings while allowing 11 hits.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

5/13: Chris Sale vs. Blake Snell, 7:10 PM ET 1:05 PM ET

Saturday is Sale Day. Sale Day is the best day, although he is coming off his worst start of the year. Of course, even that start was incredible and the bad parts were partially due to bad luck, but it wasn’t quite the same as the other Sale Days. He struck out 12 Rays in seven innings on April 15, although he also walked a season-high three batters.

Snell, a lefty, is just 24 years old and has one of the higher ceilings among all the young pitchers in the game. He hasn’t really come close to that ceiling just yet thanks to an Owens-esque lack of control. This year, through seven starts, he has walked 5.4 batters per nine innings. His strikeout rate is also only just above seven per nine, which doesn’t really do his stuff justice. When you combine that with over one home run per nine innings, you get a 4.92 FIP and a 6.12 DRA. His 3.96 ERA isn’t great, but it’s better than he’s been. He allowed four runs in five innings against the Red Sox in April, although only one of those runs was earned. The pitch to watch for Snell is his slider. If he can get ahead in counts and lean on that pitch, the Red Sox are in trouble.

5/14: Drew Pomeranz vs. Matt Andriese, 1:35 PM ET

Pomeranz is coming off a rough start last time out against Milwaukee and will look to get back to his solid-if-unspectacular run he was on before that. As always, the key for Pomeranz will be to keep the ball in the yard, but that will be a challenge against a powerful Tampa lineup. He struck out 10 Rays on April 16, but he also allowed five runs in 4 13 innings thanks to a couple of home runs.

Andriese is arguably the best pitcher the Red Sox will face this weekend, although that says more about the Rays rotation than anything else. He doesn’t really do anything all that well, but he’s fine in most respects of the game. His strikeout rate is around average, his walk rate isn’t a disaster, and while he’s allowed a bunch of home runs this year he induces enough ground balls to think it might not be sustainable. Andriese relies on a low-90s fastball and a mid-80s changeup to do most of his damage. This will be his first time facing the Red Sox in 2017.

Old Friends

Kevin Cash, the Rays manager, is the only old friend here. Nothing much has changed here since the last Rays series preview.

Notable Hitters

Evan Longoria remains the face of the Rays franchise, but he’s been below average at the plate for the first time in his career. His plate discipline is as good as it’s been since his prime, but he’s not having success on balls in play. The .280 batting average on balls in play — which would be his lowest since 2011 — seems primed for positive regression, but his power is being hurt by a big spike in ground balls.

Corey Dickerson is having a bounce-back year for the Rays and is leading their lineup. His BABIP seems like it should regress but the power is for real. He’ll face two lefties this weekend, and while he’s struggled mightily against southpaws in his career he’s been great this season. This will be an interesting mini-game to watch this weekend.

Logan Morrison has quietly been one of the more productive first basemen to start this year. His power has been off-the-charts thanks to a career-high hard-hit rate and a more pull-oriented approach than ever before.

Steven Souza will have success if he puts the ball into play. He is prone to strikeouts, though, so the Red Sox have a chance to avoid that.

Kevin Kiermaier is known for his glove in center field, although his mistakes have led to two Little League home runs this year. He’s also been awful at the plate thanks to a total lack of power and a huge rise in strikeouts.

Brad Miller has a .195 batting average and a .127 Isolated Power but is still almost a league-average hitter thanks to an absurd 19 percent walk rate. Throw this dude strikes.

Tim Beckham is having the best year of his career despite absolutely horrid plate discipline

Colby Rasmus missed all of April with an injury and is now tearing the cover off the ball.

Bullpen Snapshot

Alex Colomé is Tampa’s closer and he’s taken a step back after last year’s breakout. His strikeout rate is at just seven per nine while he’s walking over three per nine. He’s been helped by a lack of home runs, but that may not stay the case for long as he’s also seen a decrease in groundball rate. He’s still a good pitcher and easily the best in the Rays’ bullpen, but Colomé isn’t as scary as he was last year.

Danny Farquhar has stepped up to become the primary eighth inning arm for the Rays. The one-time Mariners closer has been successful this year thanks to a change in approach that has led to a huge increase in groundball rate. He’s still only a league-average arm.

Jose Alvarado is the lone lefty currently in Tampa’s bullpen and has only made four major-league appearances. He has a big fastball with inconsistent, at best, secondaries.

The Rays bullpen as a whole is arguably the least intimidating in the league. Their relievers have a 16.2% strikeout rate. That is last in league and the next lowest is 18%.

Injuries

Wilson Ramos was hurt at the end of last year but the Rays still signed the catcher hoping he could be a contributor a few months into this season. He’s hoping to start a rehab assignment at the end of this month.

Matt Duffy was supposed to be the team’s starting shortstop this year but has been hurt since the end of last season and didn’t recover in time for 2017. He’s begun a rehab assignment, but won’t be back for this series.

Brad Boxberger was once the Rays closer, but he fell out of that role and settled in as Colomé’s set-up man. He’s been out all year and is hoping to be back in June.

Nathan Eovaldi was another player the Rays signed knowing he was hurt, but in this case he will miss the entire season. They are hoping for cheap upside in 2018.

Xavier Cedeno is another potential set-up arm. He will miss at least the entire first half.

Tommy Hunter, a middle reliever, was solid to start the year before hurting his calf. He should be back soon, but likely not for this series.

Shawn Tolleson was the Rangers closer once upon a time and the Rays were hoping to recapture some of that magic. He has yet to pitch this year and will probably miss at least another four-to-six weeks.

Kevin Gadea was the team’s Rule 5 draft pick and would have been returned to Seattle if he wasn’t hurt.

Weather Forecast

It’s not going to be a great weekend in Boston, but they should at least get the first couple games in. There will be clouds overhead on Friday and temperatures are expected to be in the 40’s, but there is no precipitation in the forecast.

The same is mostly true on Saturday, although there is some rain coming later in the night. The hope right now is that it won’t start until about 11:00 PM, but that’s far from a guarantee.

They have moved Saturday’s game up to 1:05 PM to avoid the incoming rain.

Sunday looks like it’ll be rainy all day. I’ll be quite surprised if they get that game in.