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Red Sox at Rays Series Preview

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A look ahead to the weekend’s series in 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 stuck around the playoff chase for most of the year thanks to a well-balanced attack, but they are now starting to fall further and further out of the race.

Record

72-75

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 9, Rays 7

Trend

Down. It’s been a rough month of September for the Rays, who can’t seem to get hot and catapult themselves back into the wildcard race. They’ve lost three of the four series they’ve played in this month and have lost seven of the twelve games they’ve played in September.

Pitching Matchups

9/15: Chris Sale vs. Matt Andriese, 7:10 PM ET

Friday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. The Red Sox ace hasn’t quite been the same over the last few weeks, but that’s a very different thing than saying he’s been bad. When he’s gotten in trouble during this relatively-unimpressive run it’s been when he’s allowed the long ball, and particularly multiple home runs in a game. He’s done this three times since the start of August. So, if he’s keeping the ball in the yard things should be going well. He’s up to five starts against the Rays for the season and he’s allowed eight runs in 35 innings (2.06 ERA) with 57 strikeouts (!) and seven walks.

With Andriese taking the hill on Friday, this is an exact rematch of the game these two played last Saturday. That was a game that the Red Sox won 9-0, for what it’s worth. The Rays righty has had a solid enough season this year, though he was horrendous in his last start against the Red Sox and that was enough to significantly skew his overall numbers. In that outing, he allowed eight runs (six earned) and only lasted 1 23 innings. It was his second outing against Boston this year, and was much worse than his first. Andriese throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup, a curveball and a cutter.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

9/16: Rick Porcello vs. Alex Cobb, 6:10 PM ET

Porcello just isn’t getting the job done right now, and if he wants any chance at making a postseason start this October he’s going to need to turn it around in a big way. Even his last start, which came against the Rays and in which he allowed only two runs in five innings, wasn’t impressive considering he struck out only four batters and walked three. He just can’t seem to put together a full start right now, and that’s an issue for both him and his team. After his last outing, he has allowed 18 runs (16 earned) against the Rays in 29 13 innings for a 4.91 ERA.

Once again, we have a repeat of a game from just a week ago, though this one ended up going worse than the Sale-Andriese matchup. Cobb and his odd delivery gave the Red Sox fits all day long, and he has a tendency to do that at times. He’s not someone that is guaranteed to dominate in each and every start, but it’s generally clear from the beginning whether or not the Red Sox will be able to hit him. The good news is that he didn’t dominate Boston’s lineup in terms of strikeouts and walks, but he did induce a whole lot of weak contact. He’s now made four starts against the Red Sox this year and has allowed nine runs (eight earned) over 24 innings for a 3.00 ERA. Cobb features a low-90s two-seam fastball to go with a curveball and a splitter.

9/17: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Jake Odorizzi, 1:10 PM ET

Rodriguez is in the midst of an important stretch for him and his potential quest for a postseason rotation spot, and he’s done his job in the last few outings. The key for the young lefty has always and will always be his willingness to mix it up beyond his fastball, particularly true early in games. He’s been able to work in his secondaries more of late, and it’s showing in the results. Somehow, this is going to be his first start against the Rays this year.

Odorizzi was originally supposed to start in Cobb’s place last week but was pushed back. That was bad news for the Red Sox, of course, as Odorizzi has not been impressive this year. He still has flashes where he’s a fine MLB pitcher at times, but for the most part he has been so-so and has legitimately problematic home run issues. Over the two full starts against the Red Sox this year (he left with injury after just one inning in another) he has an ERA over 8.00. 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

Evan Longoria will be the face of this team for as long as he’s on the team, so it’s only fitting that he’s been an average contributor at the plate this year. He’s done nothing spectacular but also nothing notably poor. He’s been in a bit of a funk over the last month or so, particularly in the power department.

Kevin Kiermaier missed much of this year with injury, but he’s back in Tampa’s outfield. His glove is what receives the most publicity, and for good reason, but he’s no slouch with the bat either. He’s shown off big power since coming back and it doesn’t look like he’s missing any bat speed.

Logan Morrison has been Tampa’s best bat all year, and while he’s slowing down a bit in terms of batting average his power continues to be a threat every day.

Lucas Duda has suffered through an absurdly low sub-.200 batting average on balls in play since being traded to Tampa, but he’s still showing off great patience and huge power.

Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Steven Souza has quietly been very good for the Rays this year with his boom-or-bust style at the plate. Lately, though, it’s been more bust than boom.

Corey Dickerson is another strong bat near the top of Tampa’s lineup with an aggressive style at the plate to go with big power.

Wilson Ramos has not been impressive on the whole after missing the first few months of the year, but he’s starting to turn it on now.

Brad Miller is drawing a ton of walks this year, and that’s about it.

Adeiny Hechavarria has actually been hot with the bat of late, but he’s here because of the defense he provides at shortstop.

Bullpen Snapshot

Alex Colomé is quietly the saves leader in baseball, in what is sort of a strange turn of events. Colomé is very good, don’t get me wrong, but he’s actually taken a fairly large step back from last year in terms of strikeouts and ground balls. Still, the Red Sox will have some trouble if they are losing late in a game.

Tommy Hunter is having a career renaissance at age-31 with by far the best strikeout season of his career. This has made him a very strong setup man in the eighth inning ahead of Colomé.

Brad Boxberger has the talent to be an outstanding late-inning reliever, but inconsistency with command has held him back to being more of a middle relief arm than late inning.

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

Dan Jennings is the Rays’ top lefty and he relies more on weak contact than strikeouts, though he also adds some control issues to that as well.

Injuries

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.

Jacob Faria hit the disabled list with abdominal issues in late August, but he should be back in the Rays rotation before the end of the season.

Xavier Cedeño has been out of the Rays infield all year thanks to an Achilles injury. He’s started throwing again and it looks like he could be ready to return at some point in the next week or so.

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. Obviously, time is running out for that to happen.

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

Nate Eovaldi was signed with the knowledge that he’d miss this entire year, but he’s throwing again and should be at full strength for 2018.

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

Weather Forecast

The Rays play in a dome, so the weather doesn’t matter. Normally, we’d make fun of said dome, but this is the Rays’ first return home after Hurricane Irma so we’ll let them have this in peace.