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Red Sox at Rays Series Preview

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A look ahead to the short two-game series against Tampa.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

DRay’s Bay

The Opponent in one sentence

The Rays have been hanging around in the American League East all year long and they’ll likely hang around for the rest of the season thanks to a well-balanced attack.

Record

58-55

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 5, Rays 6

Trend

Up. The Rays haven’t really been able to stick to one direction since the All-Star break, going on short hot streaks followed by short cold streaks. At the moment, they’re on one of their hot streaks having won five of their last eight including three of four from the Astros. For what it’s worth, they’re also coming off a series loss to the Brewers, so perhaps they’re on the way back down.

Pitching Matchups

8/7: Chris Sale vs. Austin Pruitt, 7:10 PM ET

Tuesday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. The ace of the staff is coming off his worst start of the season, and should be coming out with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after getting knocked around by the Indians. Fortunately, there’s no reason to believe Sale can’t bounce back. He’s made three starts against Tampa this year and has allowed eight runs in 21 13 innings (3.38 ERA) on 12 hits and five walks with 36 strikeouts.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Pruitt is a 27-year-old rookie who has spent most of the season in the bullpen before taking the mound for a start in his last two outings. His only other start came in April. The two recent starts have been mixed, with the righty allowing five runs in the first start then tossing 6 13 scoreless innings against the Astros. Pruitt stands out mostly for his strong control, so expect the Red Sox to be a little more aggressive against the rookie. He’s made two appearances against Boston this year, both back in April, and allowed five runs over 3 13 innings on 11 hits, one walk and two strikeouts. Pruitt features a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a slider, a curveball and a changeup.

8/8: Rick Porcello vs. Jake Odorizzi, 7:00 PM ET

Porcello has been among, if not the, most disappointing players on the roster this season. Last year’s Cy Young winner has been knocked around all year long, and the team really needs him to get back on track down the stretch. His importance varies depending on the health of David Price, but under any scenario he is an important part of this roster. A good final eight weeks would go a long way towards eliminating the memories of his first four months. It’s been a mixed bag for Porcello against Tampa this year. In total, he’s tossed 18 13 innings over three starts and has allowed 12 earned runs (14 total) on 23 hits, two walks and 19 strikeouts. This run includes that horrible four-homer outing from April as well as an eight-inning, one run performance in July.

Odorizzi is coming off a short stint on the disabled list to make Wednesday’s start after dealing with some back pain. It’s been a rough year for the righty and former Royals prospect, as he’s striking out fewer batters than he has over any full season while allowing more walks than ever. The biggest issue has been home runs, as he’s allowed a whopping 23 home runs over 94 23 innings (2.2 per nine innings). He’s made two starts against Boston this year. In the first, he allowed seven runs over 4 13 innings in an outing that included two dingers. In the second, he left after just one inning due to injury. Odorizzi features a low-90s fastball to go with a splitter and a cutter.

Old Friends

Kevin Cash is the lone old friend on the Rays, and he is the manager. The former Red Sox backup catcher has done a solid job in Tampa. He doesn’t have much of a legacy in Boston, but he was here for a few years and built a strong relationship with Terry Francona.

Notable Hitters

Lucas Duda is the newest Rays hitter, as he was a cheap pickup for their offense at the trade deadline. Some wanted the Red Sox to go after the lefty, and those people are looking pretty smart right now. The former Mets first baseman has been phenomenal since going to the Rays, already smacking three homers in ten games with a .323/.463/.677 line. Boston will be looking to slow him down.

Milwaukee Brewers v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Evan Longoria has been merely good rather than great this year, as some inconsistency in the power department has hurt the face of the Rays. He’s been fantastic since the All-Star break, though, with a .264 Isolated Power that has helped him perform 50 percent better than the league-average hitter in this stretch.

Corey Dickerson has been great this year despite an aggressive style of hitting, but he’s taken a step back in the second half. He’s striking out a bunch, and if the Red Sox can keep him from putting the ball in play they should be able to keep him in check.

Logan Morrison is the Rays’ biggest power threat these days, and while he’s taken a bit of a step back since the All-Star break he’s still a scary bat in the middle of the lineup.

Steven Souza has quietly been the best hitter in the Rays lineup this year with an approach that revolves around walks, home runs and strikeouts.

Wilson Ramos killed the Red Sox the last time these two teams met, but he hasn’t done much else this year after missing most of the first half.

Brad Miller has also been hurt for much of the year, and while he’ll draw a ton of walks he hasn’t been able to make much solid contact this year.

Mallex Smith isn’t a power threat but he has a solid approach at the plate and will hit a ton of singles. Once on base, he is also a big threat with his legs.

Bullpen Snapshot

Alex Colomé hasn’t been nearly as dominant as he was in 2016, though he’s still a strong presence in the back of Tampa’s bullpen. He’s not the type of overpowering closer we’re used to seeing in today’s game, but he’ll get some swings and misses and relies on weak contact. His best quality this year has been keeping the ball in the yard.

Tommy Hunter is having the best year of his career thanks to a career-high strikeout rate that is over a batter per inning. He’s sacrificed a little bit of control in the process but it’s been well worth the trade-off thus far.

Steve Cishek had a rough year with Seattle but he’s been much better in a small sample with Tampa.

Dan Jennings is the team’s primary lefty after coming over from the White Sox at the deadline. He’s not overpowering, but he’ll get a ton of weak contact including a plethora of ground balls.

Injuries

Kevin Kiermaier is arguably the Rays best overall player but he’s been out since June with a back injury. They were hoping he’d be back in center field soon, but a setback has pushed his return date back. He should still be on the roster for the stretch run.

Tampa Bay Rays v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Colby Rasmus perhaps shouldn’t be on this list, as he’s on the restricted list rather than the DL. He had been dealing with injuries all year before deciding he needed to step away from the game for a bit. He won’t be back this year.

Matt Andriese was putting up solid numbers in the Rays rotation this year before going down with injury in June. He’s hoping to start his rehab assignment soon and could be back in a couple of weeks.

Matt Duffy has been out of the Rays infield all year thanks to an Achilles injury, and while there’s no timetable on his return he hopes he can come back at some point in 2017.

Shawn Tolleson was supposed to be a strong part of Tampa’s middle relief but underwent Tommy John surgery in May.

Xavier Cedeño has been out of the Rays bullpen since April. Back in June he was hoping to be back around this point in the year, but there hasn’t been any news since then.

Kevin Gadea was the team’s Rule 5 pick this past winter has been out all year with an elbow injury

Weather Forecast

The weather doesn’t matter this week because the Rays play in the abomination that is known as Tropicana Field.