SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Rays are still the top team in the American League by both record and run differential, using a well-balanced roster that now has their ace back on it to race to the top of the division.
Red Sox 3, Rays 0
Down, sort of. These two teams of course just played each other last weekend, with the Red Sox pulling off a surprising sweep on the road. That is still recent, so it plays into Tampa’s trend. They did, however, come back from that and take two of three from Kansas City most recently. Still, even with that series victory the Rays have lost five of their last seven.
4/26: TBD vs. Charlie Morton, 7:10 PM ET
The Red Sox have not yet announced a starter for Friday’s game as of this writing. Alex Cora explained after Thursday’s win that the delay was due to the weather, as the Red Sox may be calling someone up for this start and didn’t want to do so if the game was going to get cancelled. The jury is still out on whether or not they’ll get this game in, but if they do the most likely starter is probably Mike Shawaryn. The Red Sox have three open spots on the 40-man so making room there isn’t a concern. The 2016 fifth round pick has made his way through the minors in quick order and profiles as a future back-end starter or swingman. He’s pitched to a 3.63 ERA over his first four starts in Pawtucket with over a strikeout per inning and under three walks per nine. If he doesn’t make the start, other options include Ryan Weber (who is scheduled to start for Pawtucket today), Josh Smith or a bullpen game. My money is on Shawaryn, though.
On the other side of, the Rays will send Charlie Morton to the mound for his second matchup against this Red Sox lineup. Boston was able to get to Tampa’s righty last weekend, plating five runs against him over six innings, though they did also strike out nine times. That outing was the first time Morton had allowed more than two runs in any start this season. The Red Sox also hit him pretty well in 2018 when the righty was still with the Astros, so hopefully they can keep that momentum going on Friday, particularly with their starting pitching situation being unclear. Early this year Morton has about an even split between his two mid-90s fastballs and he’s also featured his curveball along with rare showings of a few other secondaries.
4/27: David Price vs. Tyler Glasnow, 4:05 PM ET
According to Cora, Price was moved back a day in order to get him and Sale back to throwing on back-to-back days, but presumably it was also to avoid possibly having him get up and down on a rainy Friday night. Whatever the reason, Price will be back out against his former club in the second game of this series. The lefty wasn’t super efficient in his last start, which came against the Rays, as he lasted only five innings. He was good in those five frames, though, allowing only two runs and striking out ten batters. With the bullpen likely needing to work a bit on Friday, Boston will likely hope he can trade some strikeouts for an extra inning or two in this game.
Glasnow is one of those pitchers who I always think is a lefty even though he very much is not, which isn’t really relevant but I thought I’d share. What is relevant is that the former Pirates prospect has broken out in a major way this year, pitching to a 1.53 ERA and a 2.66 FIP over his first five starts in 2019. The Red Sox did prevent him from picking up a fifth straight win in his last outing though. They didn’t produce a ton of runs, scoring only two, but they did knock Glasnow out after just 5 2⁄3 innings while drawing three walks. Look for them to be patient yet again in this game, hoping to see his control lapse, work the pitch count and get him out as early as possible. Glasnow has been mostly a two-pitch guy in 2019 with a 97 mph fastball and a curveball.
4/28: Chris Sale vs. TBD, 1:05 PM ET
The Red Sox ace is still looking for his first win of the season, though he has been looking better in his last few outings. He didn’t maintain his high fastball velocity his last time out against the Tigers, but he didn’t fall back to his early season velo readings either. The southpaw also struck out ten guys in just five innings, though you’d obviously like to see deeper outings. There are still tweaks to be made, but if he takes another step forward we should be relatively close to the Sale we expect to see.
It appears the Rays are going to go with an Opener for their Sunday matchup. They have a few option to take the bulk of those innings, with Jalen Beeks being on full rest from the left side and Yonny Chirinos from the right side. Both pitchers have been solid this year, with some command issues but mostly good production in the middle innings. The latter has started a few times, too, so there is at least a chance they just announce him as a normal starter for that game.
Jalen Beeks was, of course, sent to Tampa Bay last summer in exchange for Nathan Eovaldi. The lefty has found a nice niche with the Rays as the follower in their opener games, typically going three-to-four innings.
Notable Position Players
Tommy Pham has been a monster at the top of Tampa Bay’s roster early this year with strikeout and walk rates both just over 16 percent, leading to a .420 OBP. His power hasn’t really been there like it has in the past, but the Rays can wait for that as long as he’s getting on base like this.
Brandon Lowe has been great as well, just in the opposite way of Pham. Lowe has surprised a lot of people this year by hitting the ball hard just about every time he makes contact, leading to a .291 ISO and a .388 BABIP. There will be some regression and his 33 percent strikeout rate is a red flag, but the way he’s hitting the ball right now is no joke.
Yandy Díaz has been the middle man between Pham and Lowe, hitting for power with a .265 ISO while also carrying a 15 percent walk rate and 19 percent strikeout rate. The former Indian has changed his swing a bit and the results have been staggering.
Ji-Man Choi is getting on base a bunch thanks to a high walk rate and BABIP, but the power that is expected from his spot has not yet appeared.
Willy Adames has had a rough start to his year, striking out far too much and not showing the power needed to back up that kind of swing and miss.
Kevin Kiermaier is showing off a power stroke we’ve never seen from him before, and even if/when that goes away he’ll still be among the best defensive outfielders in the game.
Avisaíl García doesn’t have the plate discipline to make him a consistent threat in the lineup, but right now he’s squaring a whole lot up and will be productive for as long as he can keep that up.
Mike Zunino is making more contact than ever and turning it on of late, showing off the power stroke that made him so enticing even when he was striking out more than just about anyone else in the league.
Daniel Robertson has been one of the worst hitters in the game early in this 2019 season.
Jose Alvarado is one of the very best left-handed relievers in all of baseball with some of the nastiest stuff in the league regardless of handedness. He will lose control at times and the walk rate isn’t always pretty, but he misses a ton of bats and is incredibly hard to square up when contact is made. Of course, Michael Chavis was able to do so last weekend.
Diego Castillo also has nasty stuff, except his comes from the right side. He isn’t quite as dominant as Alvarado and makes a few more mistakes, but he’s still gotten extremely impressive results early in his career.
Austin Meadows hit the IL after hurting his thumb on a slide against the Red Sox. The outfielder was off to a red-hot start and the Rays hope to have him back within a few weeks.
Joey Wendle has not had a chance to get going this year, missing time at the start of the year then getting hit by a pitch that fractured his wrist shortly after his return. He’ll be out for at least a month.
Matt Duffy is battling a couple of different injuries that figure to keep him out for at least another three weeks or so.
José De León is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and hopes to be back in action around the middle of the season.
Anthony Banda is also working his way back from Tommy John surgery and will be a month or two behind De León.
As mentioned above, Friday could be an iffy day for baseball, but they may be able to squeeze this one in. Right now it looks like the rain should stop sometime around 4:00 before picking back up around 9:00 at night. After that it doesn’t look like it’ll stop, so starting this one on time might be a risk. My guess is they’ll give it a shot, though. Saturday, meanwhile, looks like it should be clear while Sunday has a little rain in the forecast but nothing that should cancel the game.