SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Rays haven’t been the same as earlier in the year and while they are still one of the better teams in the American League they start this week on the outside looking in in the wildcard race.
Red Sox 4, Rays 5
Down. The Rays got off to a good start after the break against a bad Orioles team — easier said than done, as these Red Sox would tell you — but they’ve been on the downturn since then. They’ve lost each of their last two series since then and have dropped five of their last six overall.
7/22: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Jalen Beeks, 7:10 PM ET
There has been very little to feel good about with regards to the Red Sox for, well, the entire season basically. Of late, though, Eduardo Rodriguez fits in that category as the lefty has seemingly settled into a groove. He pitched well in a win over the Blue Jays in his last time out despite only managing four strikeouts in the game. That he can succeed without missing bats is actually a good sign, as long as it’s not the new norm. Dating back to the London Series, the Red Sox lefty has now gone four straight outings in which he’s allowed two or fewer runs. In the last two, he’s pitched into the seventh as well. It probably could have been the last three, but rain ended his start in Detroit early. Rodriguez has faced the Rays twice this year, allowing four runs in each and both times pitching into the sixth but not finishing the inning.
We have an old friend taking the mound for Tampa Bay on Monday, with Jalen Beeks getting the start. He, of course, was sent to the Rays last summer in the deal that brought Nathan Eovaldi to Boston. Given what’s happened since that trade it has been a clear win for the Red Sox, but sometimes both teams can win trades. The Rays have to like what they’ve gotten from Beeks so far, serving exclusively as the “follower” in games when an opener is used. In fact, Monday’s game will be his first start with the Rays. He’s still tossed 64 2⁄3 innings this year with a 2.78 ERA, a 3.57 FIP and a 5.08 DRA. Beeks doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts, but he’s been better about keeping the ball in the yard while also improving his control. The southpaw will feature a fastball that sits in the 92-93 range along with a changeup, a curveball and the occasional cutter.
7/23: Chris Sale vs. Yonny Chirinos, 7:10 PM ET
While Rodriguez has been good of late, perhaps the most prominent disappointment on the Red Sox this year has been Sale. The team’s ace has a history of slipping later in the year, but in 2019 he’s been average-to-bad pretty much the entire season. The good news is he reversed that trend in his last start. Now, this was against a Blue Jays team that has hit well against him but has been bad on the whole in 2019, so that performance is far from a sure indicator of the future. That said, he tossed six scoreless innings with twelve strikeouts, so hopefully that is the type of outing that sparks a strong run. This will be Sale’s second start against Tampa Bay this year. In the first, he allowed four runs (two earned) over seven innings with eight strikeouts and three walks.
Chirinos, like Beeks, has spent a good chunk of his career in the “follower” role. He’s spent most of this year as a regular ol’ starter, though, and he’s pitched very well. The righty, in his second season in the majors, has pitched 112 innings this year and has pitched to a 3.29 ERA, a 4.17 FIP and a 4.44 DRA. Chirinos is a lot like Beeks with regards to his strikeout stuff, but he has shown better control and has a longer track record of solid command. He also dominated the Red Sox in their one meeting this season, pitching eight scoreless innings in June. The righty will feature a mid-90s sinker along with a splitter and slider.
7/24: David Price vs. Charlie Morton, 12:10 PM ET
Price has been the best starter on the Red Sox this year, but he is trending downwards both in terms of performance and perception. For the latter, we all know about the Eckersley stuff here. The people who strongly hold that against him will point to that as the reason — or at least part of the reason — for his poor last start. Whatever the reason, it was an ugly game against the Orioles where he only made it through four and allowed six runs. That was his first bad start in about a month, though, so hopefully it was just a blip on the radar and not a sign of things to come. Price has already faced his old team three times this year, allowing a total of five runs over 17 innings (2.65 ERA) with 27 strikeouts and seven walks.
Morton is in his first season with the Rays this year after being signed as a free agent last winter. He was brought in to pitch behind Blake Snell in the rotation and he’s certainly done his part on the mound. The veteran righty, who re-emerged with the Astros two years ago, has pitched to a 2.61 ERA this year with a 2.94 FIP and a 2.79 DRA. That makes him one of the better starters in baseball across all three of those categories. Morton gets a ton of strikeouts, and while he can lose control here and there it’s not a disaster and he keeps the ball in the yard at a good clip. The Red Sox saw Morton twice in April, once getting shutout over six innings and scoring five runs in the other. He will feature two mid-90s fastballs along with a curveball and a slider.
Beeks, as mentioned above, was traded from Boston to Tampa Bay last summer.
Notable Position Players
Tommy Pham has quietly been one of the better on-base players in the American League. He’s fallen off a bit after a strong start to the year, but he still draws a ton of walks while making contact at a good clip. The power isn’t great, but he’s still good enough to knock extra-base hits at a solid rate.
Austin Meadows has been more of a typical 2019 player. His walk rate is a little better than average, he strikes out at a decently high clip and makes up for that and then some with big-time power at the top of Tampa’s lineup.
Yandy Díaz, like many other hitters in this lineup, has fallen off after a hot start. Still, he hits for power, walks a lot and doesn’t strike out too much.
Ji-Man Choi has always been a power hitter as a pro, but this year he’s relying more on on-base skills than pop.
Avisaíl García is all about the BABIP. He doesn’t walk, he strikes out a bit and his power is average at best. He gets a lot of hits, though, and that keeps his value up.
Willy Adames is still struggling to adjust to the majors, but he is talented enough to strike out of nowhere. He also makes an impact with his legs when he does reach base.
Joey Wendle was very quietly outstanding last year, but he’s struggled in an injury-shortened season this year with a 51 wRC+.
Mike Zunino has been even worse than Wendle, still striking out at his typical high clip without the power that usually accompanies it.
Emilio Pagan has been phenomenal since the start of last year, getting a ton of strikeouts and limiting his walks. The righty will get into some trouble with the long ball here and there, though.
Diego Castillo is the prototypical high-upside, high-risk relief arm. His stuff is huge and when he’s commanding it he can be unhittable. The command just isn’t consistent enough to always be on, though.
Adam Kolarek is the top lefty in this ‘pen, but he relies on weak contact and grounders instead of stuff.
Tyler Glasnow was one of the best starters in the game before going down with a forearm injury in May. He may not be able to return at all this year.
Brandon Lowe was good enough to earn an All-Star berth this year, but he’s been out since the start of this month and they’re still not sure when he’ll return.
Kevin Kiermaier sprained his thumb last week, and while he shouldn’t be out long he’ll miss this series.
Ryne Stanek just recently hit the IL with a hip injury. There’s no timetable for his return, but there’s no indication it’s too serious.
Daniel Robertson has been out with a knee injury for about a month, but he just recently started a rehab assignment.
Christian Arroyo has been out for a month with a forearm injury. He’ll be out until at least mid-August.
Anthony Banda has been out all year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he could be back at some point within the next month.
Matt Duffy has been out all season but could be ready to return at some point in this series.
The Rays play in a dome, so it doesn’t matter!