SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Rays have fallen off in a big way since a hot start to the season and just recently lost their best pitcher to injury, but they are still very much in the thick of the wildcard race along with the Sox.
Red Sox 6, Rays 6
Downish. The Rays are sort of treading water right now, but that is coming on the heels of an extremely rough stretch. They did recover from losing two of three from Boston earlier this week by taking two of three from Toronto after that. However, going back to July 16 they have lost eight of their last twelve.
7/30: David Price vs. Charlie Morton, 7:10 PM ET
David Price spent the first few months of the year as the best and most consistent Red Sox starter, but he has been dethroned by Eduardo Rodriguez over the last month. To be fair to the veteran lefty, the results haven’t always been bad of late. He tossed a quality start his last time out (also against the Rays) and has only one start in which he’s allowed more than three earned runs since June 13 with an ERA of 3.89 in that span. That’s really not terrible in today’s game. He hasn’t been the same during that stretch as he was earlier in the year, though. Price is struggling to go deep into games — he has just three starts of six or more innings in his last seven — and most importantly his cutter hasn’t been there. At his best, the backdoor cutter to righties is his best pitch and in this writer’s opinion one of the most aesthetically pleasing pitches on this entire staff. He needs to find a way to get that weapon back if he’s going to go on another big-time run.
The Red Sox took two of three from the Rays last week, but Morton was on the mound for the one game the Rays won. That one is now known for what happened later in the game when Adam Kolarek was used as a reliever then a first baseman then a reliever again and the madness that ensued after that. The weirdness has overshadowed the fact that Morton was absolutely dominant throughout that game, though. The righty is a legitimate Cy Young candidate who is leading the American League in ERA, ERA+ and FIP. That seems good! In three starts against Boston this year Morton has allowed seven runs over 19 innings with 25 strikeouts and six walks. He will offer a curveball, a mid-90s fastball, a sinker and a cutter.
7/31: Rick Porcello vs. TBD, 7:10 PM ET
Heading into the series opener against the Yankees last week everyone, yours truly included, was holding on to their butts as Porcello was getting set to face off against New York. It’s been a well-documented brutal season for the 2016 Cy Young winner, as he’s allowed a ton of hard contact and just been hittable in general. Ultimately, though, he completed his first quality start since June 12. Porcello did allow a home run in that start, but that’s going to happen pretty much every time out. The key for him is to limit the damage around the long ball or two he gives up. If it’s a solo shot or two the Red Sox can survive. When it’s two or three three-run shots, things get away from the team very quickly.
The Rays have not announced a starter for Wednesday’s game yet. Ryan Yarbrough seems to be the most likely candidate, but nothing is official.
8/1: Andrew Cashner vs. TBD, 7:10 PM ET
Speaking of struggling righties whose last start was surprisingly effective against the Yankees: Hello Mr. Cashner. The newest member of the Red Sox (as of this writing, at least) had struggled mightily in his first two starts with the team. There were a lot of issues in those outings, but the biggest among them was that his changeup just didn’t work as planned. This was the pitch that was most responsible for his solid performance with Baltimore before the trade. That pitch was back in action for him against the Yankees and it resulted in a strong outing. The Red Sox don’t need perfection from Cashner in the fifth rotation spot. They just need him to keep them in games.
Once again, there is no announced starter for Thursday’s game. There is also no likely candidate as far as I can tell.
Jalen Beeks was, of course, traded to the Rays last summer in the Nathan Eovaldi trade. He started in the last series between these two teams but it appears he’ll miss out on this one.
Note: The rest of this post is largely copied/pasted from last week’s series preview with a few exceptions, as not much has changed.
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.
Travis d’Arnaud has been on an absurd tear since joining the Rays with a 130 wRC+ thanks mostly to out-of-nowhere power.
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.
Nathaniel Lowe hasn’t been up too long, but he has been able to make up for contact issues with big power and hard contact.
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.
Eric Sogard was just acquired by the Rays from the Blue Jays. This series will be the first time he’s wearing the uniform.
Joey Wendle was very quietly outstanding last year, but he’s struggled in an injury-shortened season this year with a 51 wRC+.
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
Blake Snell was just recently placed on the injured list and has to undergo surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow. If you’ll recall, this was the same injury that knocked Nathan Eovaldi out earlier this year.
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.
Yandy Díaz went down in last week’s series after fouling a ball off his foot. It’s unclear how much time he’s set to miss.
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.
Anthony Banda has been out all year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he could be back at some point within the next month.
Things should be mostly good for the Sox and Rays this week. Wednesday could be the one day with an issue as there are potential thunderstorms in the area. Right now it seems like it would be more likely to cause a delay than a cancellation.