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Red Sox vs. Rays Series Preview

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A look at the four-games-in-the-days series this weekend.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

DRay’s Bay

The Opponent in one sentence

The Rays have cooled off a bit since their scorching start to the season but are still firmly among the league’s best this season and just a game and a half behind the Yankees.

Record

37-23

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 3, Rays 2

Trend

Down...ish. The Rays are coming off a series victory in Detroit and won the last two of that series, but they struggled before that. Specifically, they ran into the buzzsaw that is the Minnesota Twins, dropping three of four in that series and losing four in a row overall between the end of that series and the start of the Tigers won. Of course, before the four-game skid they had won six in a row and eight of nine, so if they are trending down it’s been short-lived.

Pitching Matchups

6/7: Rick Porcello vs. Yonny Chirinos, 7:10 PM ET

Porcello had been trending mostly in the right direction since the start of May, but he’s struggled a bit over his last couple starts. He did allow only three earned runs (five overall) two starts ago against Cleveland, to be fair, but it wasn’t the most impressive stuff. Then, he allowed five runs without making it through five innings in Yankee Stadium last time out in a game his team lost 5-3. The key, as always, is baserunners. Porcello is always good for at least one homer in pretty much every outing, but as long as it’s solo he can get by it. Over his last two outings he’s allowed 21 baserunners. That’s not going to get it done. Porcello allowed two runs over 5 23 innings in his previous outing this year against the Rays.

We haven’t always seen Chirinos listed as a starter for the Rays, even though that’s essentially been his role his entire career. For most of his career, including earlier this year, Chirinos was one of the team’s “followers,” as the guy who comes in for multiple innings after the opener. He’s apparently graduated from that after Tyler Glasnow’s injury, starting games regularly now. The second-year righty was really impressive in 2018, though while he has a 3.25 ERA this season it appears a bit more fluky. Chirinos has a 4.28 FIP and an even 5.00 DRA on the year, thanks in large part to a big spike in home runs. The 25-year-old is going to pound the strike zone and not miss a terribly impressive number of bats, so it’s going to be all about quality of contact on Friday night. The Red Sox haven’t seen Chirinos this year but scored eight runs over 17 innings last season. He’ll feature a mid-90s sinker as well as a slider and a splitter.

6/8: David Price vs. TBD, 1:05 PM ET

For as incredible as Chris Sale has been at times this year — and he’s been mind-blowing for some stretches — Price has been the most consistent arm in the Red Sox rotation. He’s coming off a monster outing in New York, giving Boston 6 13 good innings on Sunday Night Baseball in what felt like a must-win, kicking off a four-game win streak that remains intact heading into this Rays series. Before that outing, he tossed six shutout innings against the Indians. We know the key for Price at this point in his career: Command. He’s particularly unhittable if he’s getting a little extra room on the outer half to righties, where he can abuse opponents with that backdoor cutter. So, be on the lookout for that. Price made back-to-back outings against his former team back in April, allowing a combined four runs over 11 innings (3.27 ERA) with 17 strikeouts and five walks.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays will go with a traditional starter on Friday, but the doubleheader will be kicked off with an opener on Saturday. Most of the time, that means Ryne Stanek will pitch the first inning for Tampa Bay, though that’s not set in stone. There is no official word on who would follow, but Ryan Yarbrough is the most likely option. The lefty has struggled this year with an ERA over 6.00 and he’s coming off an outing in which he allowed seven runs against the Twins. The Red Sox scored three runs in three innings against Yarbrough in April.

6/8: TBD vs. TBD, 6:10 PM ET

There are no scheduled starters for either side for the second game on Saturday. It’s all speculation so take it with a grain of salt, but there have been rumors that Darwinzon Hernandez could potentially get the start. More likely to me is that Mike Shawaryn gets the call, as he is still waiting for his major-league debut. Hernandez could still get called up for a multi-inning relief outing, though. On the other side, presumably it will be another bullpen game with old friend Jalen Beeks potentially throwing the bulk of the innings.

6/9: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Blake Snell, 1:05 PM ET

Rodriguez has failed to pitch consistently well for a long stretch this season, seemingly taking two steps forward and two steps back time and time again. He is coming off two good outings in a row, though, and has a chance to build off that. Two outings ago he shut down the Astros in a start that felt like it had to build some momentum, and sure enough he allowed just two to the Royals last time out with seven strikeouts and no walks. This will be a bigger test than Kansas City, of course, but as long as he’s attacking he can beat just about anyone. The Rays scored four runs (three earned) the last time they saw Rodriguez back in April.

Snell was always going to have trouble repeating his 2018 season that won him his first career Cy Young award, but the good news for him and the Rays is that there is a lot of room between that year and a lack of productivity. The southpaw spent some time on the shelf this year, but in his 12 starts he’s still been very good with a 3.68 ERA, a 3.04 FIP and a 2.87 DRA. He’s actually striking out more batters than last year while walking fewer, though he’s allowing more solid contact both in terms of hits allowed and home runs. He’s also coming off a really tough outing in Detroit in which he allowed six runs without making it through five. This will be Boston’s first look at Snell this year. The southpaw will feature a mid-90s fastball, a curveball and a changeup.

Old Friends

Jalen Beeks, mentioned above, was a Red Sox pitching prospect who was sent to Tampa Bay last summer in the Nathan Eovaldi trade. Obviously, that worked out tremendously for the Red Sox but Beeks has thrived in a multi-inning reliever role, too. He’s tossed 44 innings this year with a 3.02 ERA and 43 strikeouts to 16 walks.

Notable Position Players

Austin Meadows was hurt for a bit this year, but when healthy the former Pirates prospect has been a monster at the top of Tampa’s lineup. The outfielder is hitting for power and drawing walks, all while striking out at a slightly below-average rate.

Tommy Pham has been an on-base machine for the Rays this year. He’s hit for solid power on top of that, but it’s his 15 percent walk rate and .338 batting average on balls in play that is carrying his value.

Avisaíl García has looked much better this year than he did for most of his White Sox career, still not really walking but hitting the ball with authority more often than not when he makes contact.

Ji-Man Choi has still been solid this year, but he’s not hitting for the power he showed in flashes last season.

Willy Adames has been quietly getting better as the year has gone on, coming off a May with an .800 OPS and boasting a 1.076 OPS very early in June.

Yandy Díaz isn’t quite as hot as he was earlier in the year, but he still possesses great plate discipline and is a threat to crush any ball thrown to him at the plate.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Lowe strikes out a ton and doesn’t walk very much, but he still produces thanks to big-time power and just hard contact in general.

Kevin Kiermaier is still more known for his defense than anything else, but the outfielder is hitting the ball a bit better this year.

Mike Zunino has struggled mightily at the plate this year for Tampa Bay, not making enough contact for his power to play like it should.

Bullpen Snapshot

Diego Castillo is the top reliever in Tampa’s bullpen for the moment. He can struggle with control at times but his stuff is straight-up nasty.

Emilio Pagan has been dominant in his first year with the Rays, pitching to a 0.44 ERA, a 1.04 FIP and a 2.57 DRA.

Adam Kolorek is the top left-handed option in the Rays bullpen, and while he doesn’t miss many bats he is very tough to square up.

Injuries

Jose Alvarado isn’t hurt right now but is back home in Venezuela on family medical leave. He’s not expected back this weekend.

Tyler Glasnow was perhaps the league’s biggest breakout on the mound early in the year, but he went down with a forearm injury a few weeks ago and is expected to be out until around the All-Star break.

Joey Wendle has missed most of this season but is starting his rehab now and should be back with the big-league club shortly after this series ends.

José De León is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery.

Anthony Banda underwent Tommy John last summer but hopes to pitch at some point later this year.

Matt Duffy was working his way back from the IL but hurt himself again on rehab and is back to being out of baseball action.

Michael Pérez has been out with an oblique injury since early May, but should be ready to pick things back up relatively soon.

Anthony Bemboom sprained his knee after just a few games in the majors and will be out for at least another few weeks.

Weather Forecast

Everything looks good this weekend in Boston, with the sun shining every day and day-time highs sitting in the mid-70s.