SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Rays weren’t viewed as a contender heading into the year and they haven’t done a ton since the start of the year to change that perception.
Red Sox 3, Rays 1
Down. Things are not going so well for the Rays, who have had the exact opposite season of the Red Sox. Of course, that makes sense because two-thirds of both teams’ seasons have come against each other. While the Red Sox have won five in a row since that Opening Day disaster, the Rays have lost five straight since that game. Let’s hope that trend continues for at least three more games.
4/5: David Price vs. Yonny Chirinos, 2:05 PM ET
Price is set to make his second start of 2018 against the same team his first came against, which happens to be the team with which he spent most of his career. The lefty absolutely dominated the Rays last time out, tossing seven shutout innings in which he allowed just four hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out five. His efficiency was particularly impressive as he threw only 76 pitches before being pulled. Alex Cora showed a willingness to stick with his plan of pulling starters early in this early-season games in Chris Sale’s second start, though the ace didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see how Cora handles things if Price is even close to as ruthlessly dominant as he was in his first start.
This was originally called a bullpen game, and it kind of feels like it still is even though they’ve named a starter by the time I wrote this. Chirinos isn’t quite in the same mold as Andrew Kittredge, who got the start in the last bullpen game the Red Sox went up against last week. Chirinos has been a starter as recently as last year and spent most of his minor-league career pitching in the rotation. The righty did appear in the final game of the first series between these two clubs and he tossed four scoreless innings out of the bullpen with three strikeouts and just one walk, though he also hit a couple batters. Chirinos gets by more on control/command than big stuff, but he does feature a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup and a slider.
4/7: Rick Porcello vs. Jacob Faria, 1:05 PM ET
We’ve been talking about Porcello as one of the many wildcards on this Red Sox roster as the 2016 Cy Young winner looks for a bounce back from his rough 2017. He’s been working with Dana LeVangie, among others (including Derek Lowe), to find the right mix of his old groundball style and new preference to work up in the zone. The early returns in his first outing were outstanding. In this outing, he allowed just one run over 5 1⁄3 innings with four strikeouts and one walk. One great start does not a season make, but Porcello got off on the right foot.
Faria will be the only true starter the Red Sox are going to see in this series, and they struggled to get much going against the righty in his first outing of the year. They did get some runners on base, piling up four doubles and three walks over four innings, but they couldn’t come through with runs. Faria does have talent, and while he doesn’t really profile as a future ace the second-year pitcher is going to give some lineups some problems all year. The 24-year-old throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup — his best secondary — and a slider.
4/8: Hector Velazquez vs. Johnny Wholestaff, 1:05 PM ET
Velazquez almost didn’t make the Opening Day roster after a rough spring, and he’s a good bet to be demoted once the rotation starts to regain its health, but in the meantime he was outstanding in his first start of the year. The righty allowed only one run in his first outing of the season, striking out five Rays and walking only one. This is not the type of performance that shouldn’t be expected from Velazquez every time he takes the mound, but it’s a nice reminder that the Red Sox have some impressive competence for their eighth starter.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I don’t know how to analyze these bullpen games, but I think they’re dumb.
Kevin Cash is the Rays manager, and the former Red Sox backup catcher is the lone old friend on this Rays team.
Notable Position Players
Kevin Kiermaier is known for his defensive work, and for good reason as he’s arguably (definitely, in my opinion) the best defensive outfielder in all of baseball. He has some talent at the plate, too, and showed off quiet pop in 2017, but the lefty has gotten off to a slow start this year with just two hits in six games.
Carlos Gomez is another key member of the Rays lineup, as well as another strong defensive outfielder, who has the potential to show legitimate power at the plate. Gomez, like Kiermaier, has gotten off to a slow start with two hits in five games, though one was a home run.
Denard Span was the hero in the one game the Red Sox have lost early on this year as the veteran smacked a huge bases-clearing double against Carson Smith on Opening Day to give the Rays a lead they would not relinquish. Span hasn’t been great outside of that moment, but he’s getting on base at a high clip.
Matt Duffy is getting some hits early in the year, but he’s not hitting for much power and he hasn’t drawn a walk yet this season.
Brad Miller only has two hits this year, but one of them was a solo home run against the Red Sox and he’s also gotten on base with plenty of walks.
Wilson Ramos has yet to contribute an extra-base hit in 2018, but that will come at some point because he is one of the better power-hitting catchers in baseball.
C.J. Cron was brought in to replace Logan Morrison, and he’s been predictably underwhelming to start the season.
Adeiny Hechavarria has actually made some solid contact this year even if it’s only been for singles, but he’s a below-average hitter who provides his value with the glove.
Alex Colomé is an above-average closer who may be slightly overrated after leading the league in saves last year but who will still get the job done more often than not if the Red Sox find themselves behind late in any games of this series. The righty has one scoreless appearance under his belt to start the year.
Sergio Romo was the setup man in San Francisco for a long time before heading to Tampa Bay in free agency this past winter. The righty has made two appearances this year, allowing one run on two walks and three strikeouts in 1 1⁄3 innings.
Chaz Roe is another Ray we are likely to see in late-game situations this year and he’s had an almost identical start to Romo except instead of a 3/2 K/BB ratio Roe’s is 1/1.
Jose Alvarado is Tampa’s best lefty and the one who will be tasked with getting guys like Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers. He tends to lose his command for stretches at a time, but he also has a strong fastball/slider combo that can be lethal to lefties.
Brent Honeywell is the Rays top prospect and was expected to be up and a major factor in their rotation at some point in 2017. Instead, he was injured fairly early in camp and underwent Tommy John surgery. The exciting righty will be out all year.
Nate Eovaldi, as mentioned above, just found out he’ll be going back under the knife after missing all of 2016. The hard-thrower should be back in a few months, but with his injury history we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of setbacks.
Jose De Leon is another top prospect who recently underwent Tommy John surgery in a year in which he was supposed to contribute at the major-league level.
For the first time in 2018, the Red Sox will not have the protection of a roof for this series. That shouldn’t be an issue on Thursday or Sunday, as both days look like they’ll be on the chilly side (mid-40s) but also with clear skies. Saturday, however, could be an issue. Right now, there is a chance of snow in the morning (*screams into a pillow*) with it changing to rain eventually. It looks like it could stay clear enough for them to get a game in, but if there’s a chance of a rainout, or at least a delay, in this series it will be on Saturday.