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Red Sox at Rays Series Preview

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A look ahead to the final series of the first half.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

DRay’s Bay

The opponent in one sentence

The Rays have surprisingly stayed in contention thanks to solid contributions from all areas of their roster

Record

44-42

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 4, Rays 3

Trend

Down, slightly. Tampa isn’t in the midst of a major losing streak or anything like that, but they’ve been merely average of late. They’ve won five of their last ten games. In their last four series they’ve lost two, won one and are coming off a split in a two-game series against the Cubs.

Pitching Matchups

7/6: Chris Sale vs. Jacob Faria, 7:10 PM ET

Friday Thursday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. The Red Sox ace has been rolling of late, even relative to his entire season. This start will mark his final outing before the All-Star Game, a contest that he is extremely likely to start. The southpaw has tossed 14 innings over two starts against the Rays this year and has allowed four runs on five hits, five walks and 24 strikeouts. Seems pretty good, imo.

Faria was one of the Rays’ top prospects heading into the season and the righty made his major-league debut in early June. He’s made five starts in total with the big-league club and has been outstanding in that time. At 23 years old, he has pitched to a 2.23 ERA over 32 13 innings with a 2.82 FIP and a 3.75 DRA. He’s had a little bit of luck on batted balls, but he’s striking out more than a batter per inning while walking fewer than 1.5 batters per nine, so plenty of his success is based on talent and performance. Faria features a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a slider and a changeup.

7/7: Drew Pomeranz vs. Jake Odorizzi, 7:10 PM ET

Pomeranz has been on an absolute roll of late and it is looking more and more like Dave Dombrowski may have known what he was doing when he traded for the southpaw last summer. Over his last ten outings he’s pitched to a 2.72 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 16 walks in 53 innings. In two starts against the Rays he has thrown only 7 13 innings and has allowed seven runs, but does have 13 strikeouts to five walks.

A couple of years ago, Odorizzi looked like one of the more intriguing young arms in the game. Things have taken a turn for the worst over the last two seasons, though. He’s struggled mightily in 2017, pitching to a 4.08 ERA with a 5.49 FIP and a 5.51 DRA over his 15 starts this season. His strikeout rate is down, his walk rate is up and his flyball tendencies are resulting in more home runs than ever. He left with injury after just one inning of work in his only start against the Red Sox this year. Odorizzi features a low-90s fastball, a cutter and a splitter.

7/8: Rick Porcello vs. Alex Cobb, 4:10 PM ET

Porcello is looking to turn it around in the second half, but I don’t think anyone would complain if that started in his last start of the first half. He has looked a bit better of late, although his control took a slight step back last time out against the Rangers. As always, this start will be all about his command of his two-seamer. The Rays are a team that can punish him if he leaves too many balls over the plate. He’s tossed 10 13 innings against Tampa this year and has allowed 13 runs (11 earned) with 12 strikeouts and two walks. The first of those starts was the disaster in which he allowed four home runs.

Cobb, a Boston native, has been solid if unspectacular for the Rays this season. In his 17 starts he has pitched to a 4.01 ERA with a 4.20 FIP and a 4.45 DRA. Cobb doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, but when he’s at his best he shows off strong control, keeps the ball on the ground and allows weak contact. He had been on a great run for most of June before allowing seven runs his last time out. In 11 13 innings against the Red Sox this year he has allowed eight runs with five strikeouts and four walks. Cobb features a sinker and fastball — both in the low-90s — along with a splitter and a curveball.

7/9: David Price vs. Chris Archer, 1:10 PM ET

Price is starting to look more and more like his old self each time out, and he was outstanding in his last start in Texas. Despite the extreme heat, his velocity was as high as it’s been all year, his stuff and command was good enough to rack up nine strikeouts in six innings and the Rangers had nothing against the lefty all night long.

Archer is the most talented pitcher on the Rays staff and he’s been fantastic in 2017 even if the results haven’t always backed it up. Over his first 18 starts, the righty is striking out almost 11 batters per nine innings while walking fewer than three. Despite that, he’s pitched to a 3.95 ERA, although he backs that up with a 3.00 FIP and a 2.55 DRA. He’s made only one start against the Red Sox this year and allowed one run in 5 23 innings with five strikeouts and two walks. He throws his fastball in the mid-to-90s and backs it up with a wicked slider.

Old Friends

The Rays don’t have any former Red Sox on their roster, but their manager is former backup catcher Kevin Cash. His playing days weren’t terribly memorable, but his relationship with Terry Francona is one of the best things in all of baseball.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox, Game 4 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Notable Hitters

Logan Morrison has surprisingly been the anchor of the Rays’ lineup this season and has been one of the best power hitters in baseball. He’s made some waves in recent days because he’s upset about not being included in the Home Run Derby. I’m not sure baseball made the wrong call leaving him out, but there’s no doubt he’ll be playing with a chip on his shoulder this weekend.

Corey Dickerson has been the 1B to Morrison’s 1A, as the former Rockie is making up for his disappointing 2016. Despite average-at-best plate discipline, he has been one of the better hitters in the American League thanks to big-time power and consistently hard contact.

Evan Longoria will be the face of this franchise until the day he leaves, but he’s been disappointing this year thanks to average-at-best production across the board.

Steven Souza is finally making good on his potential this year by posting big numbers in the three true outcomes (strikeouts, walks and home runs). When he makes contact, he’ll likely do damage.

Mallex Smith is a talented young outfielder who doesn’t have much power but will do plenty of damage with his legs when he gets the chance.

Wilson Ramos has been hurt for most of the year, but just recently returned to the Rays’ lineup. If he’s anything like last year, it’ll be a huge boost for the Rays.

Tim Beckham, a former number one overall pick, is having his best year by far at the plate, though much of that is due to huge success on balls in play.

Bullpen Snapshot

Alex Colomé has plenty of talent in the back of the Rays bullpen, and he was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball a year ago. He’s struggled a bit more this year and has been particularly rough lately. If the Red Sox are putting the ball in the air against him, they’ll have success.

Brad Boxberger was once the closer in Tampa, but he’s been battling with injuries over the last two years. He’s only made two appearances this year, and it’s hard to know what kind performance can be expected from him at this point.

Tommy Hunter has been quietly fantastic after a couple of really bad years. He’s striking out a ton of batters while keeping his control in check. He’ll be a tough battle late in close games this weekend.

Adam Kolarek is the only lefty currently in the Rays bullpen and he has two major-league outings under his belt.

Injuries

Kevin Kiermaier is one of, if not the best defensive outfielder in the game and is solid at the plate, too. The Rays have been missing their dynamic centerfielder since early June due to a hip injury and he’s not likely to return for another six weeks or so.

Brad Miller has been out since mid-May with an abdomen injury, but the middle infielder could return to action in this series. He’s a solid bat who has struggled with strikeouts this season.

Colby Rasmus hit the disabled list with a hip injury in late June and it isn’t yet clear when the slugger will be ready to return to action.

Matt Andriese has been a solid member of the disabled list in mid-June, and he’s likely to stand there into August.

Rickie Weeks Jr. has been out since June with a shoulder injury and it’s not clear when the bench bat will return.

Matt Duffy hasn’t been able to play at all this season and it’s still not clear if he’ll come back at all in 2017.

Xavier Cedeno hit the disabled list with a forearm injury in April and the reliever will be out for at least another month.

Shawn Tolleson was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and will be out for another calendar year.

Nate Eovaldi underwent Tommy John last year and won’t return until 2018.

Kevin Gadea was Tampa’s Rule 5 draft pick this past winter and has spent the entire season on the disabled list.

Diego Moreno has been out of the Rays’ bullpen since late May and will be out at least until the end of this month, if not longer, with a shoulder injury.

Weather Forecast

The Rays play in The Dome That Shall Not Be Named, so weather will not be a factor this weekend.