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Red Sox at Rays Series Preview

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A look at this weekend’s four-game set in Tampa Bay

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

DRay’s Bay

The Opponent in one sentence

The Rays are one of the best teams in the American League and find themselves in a heated three-team-for-two-spots race in the AL Wildcard.

Record

90-63

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 6, Rays 9 (nice)

Trend

Down. The Rays started this month as one of the hottest teams in baseball, a run that they’ve used to stay in the second spot in the wildcard spot headed into this weekend. They’ve cooled off a bit since then, though, coming off a trip out west. They didn’t tank on this trip, to be fair, and considering the travel and how difficult we know these trips can be they did fine. Still, they’ve lost four of their last seven games. Nothing dramatically terrible, but not where you want to be in a tight playoff race.

Pitching Matchups

9/20: Rick Porcello vs. Charlie Morton, 7:10 PM ET

Friday marks Porcello’s penultimate start of the season, and very likely his penultimate start in a Red Sox uniform. Right now it’s hard to focus on anything other than the disappointment that has been his 2019 performance, but there will be a time coming soon where we have to look back at the full contributions of his time in Boston. It has been a rollercoaster ride of a Red Sox tenure, but unfortunately the taste in our mouths right now is rough. The good news is that he pitched well in his last outing, though he only went five innings. In fact, Porcello hasn’t made it longer than five innings since August 16, a span of five outings. That’s strange for him, even in a bad year like this. In 2019, the righty has faced the Rays three times, pitching to a 6.23 ERA over 17 13 innings with 16 strikeouts and three walks.

Morton was a quiet Cy Young candidate for a while this year, and while that possibility has mostly gone out the window with the two guys in Houston (Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole) going bananas down the stretch, it’s been an outstanding year for the former Astro. Morton has been a strikeout machine this year while also maintaining the best walk rate of his career along with the league’s lowest home run rate. That seems like a recipe for success! As a result, the righty has pitched to a 3.16 ERA with a 2.86 FIP and a 3.10 DRA. Over four starts against the Red Sox this year Morton has pitched to a 4.18 ERA in 23 23 innings with 27 strikeouts and eight walks. The veteran righty will feature a big curveball, a mid-90s fastball, a sinker and a cutter.

Boston Red Sox v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

9/21: TBD vs. Tyler Glasnow, 6:10 PM ET

The Red Sox are going with a bullpen game on Saturday. I don’t know who is going to start, but I am pretty sure we’re going to see a whole lot of pitchers. I live for this.

Glasnow was one of the dominant stories in all of baseball early this season, with the former Pirates prospect emerging as one of the best pitchers in the game over the first half. He was showing the stuff that had been touted throughout his professional career along with much-improved command. Then, he went down with an injury that cost him a big chunk of the middle of the season. The righty just returned from said injury at the start of the month, and he’s made two starts since then. Don’t expect a long outing from Glasnow as he’s pitched a total of five frames through these two starts as they are trying to balance keeping him healthy, getting him ready for October and doing what’s best for the team now. Boston saw Glasnow twice back at the end of April, scoring four runs over 12 innings with 14 strikeouts and four walks. He is mostly a two-pitch pitcher, relying heavily on a big fastball and his curveball.

9/22: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Ryan Yarbrough, 1:10 PM ET

Although he hasn’t gone as deep into games as you would like, I would argue that generally speaking Eovaldi as been a little better since returning to the rotation than it would seem given the conversation around him. There have certainly been issues, of course, but he’s been solid enough in most of his outings. His last time out does not qualify, though, as he was beat up by the Giants on Tuesday night at Fenway. He’ll look to recover from that here against his former team from whom the Red Sox acquired him last summer. This will be his first start against Tampa Bay this year, though Eovaldi has faced them twice as a reliever. He’s allowed three runs over 1 23 innings (all were in one outing) with five strikeouts and a walk.

Yarbrough has spent much of the early portions of his career serving as a follower who comes in after Tampa Bay’s now-famous opener. The lefty has quietly been very solid in that role and has moved up into a regular starter’s role for the stretch run. Between the two roles he has tossed 133 13 total innings in 2019, pitching to a 3.78 ERA, a 3.36 FIP and a 3.78 DRA. The lefty doesn’t miss a ton of bats and his stuff won’t overwhelm you, but he’s shown off great control this year and does a solid job of keeping the ball in the yard. In three appearances against the Red Sox this year Yarbrough has pitched to a 4.80 ERA over 15 innings with 16 strikeouts and one walk. He will feature a cutter, a curveball, a sinker and a changeup, with none of his pitches hitting 90 mph with any regularity.

9/23: Jhoulys Chacín vs. Blake Snell, 7:10 PM ET

Speaking of Red Sox pitchers who struggled mightily in his last time out, Chacín has just two more chances to show teams he will be worth a major-league contract at the end of the year. With the way he’s pitched this month and the way free agency has been trending in recent years, it’s far from a guarantee he’ll get to that point even being just one year removed from an outstanding year. The righty has shown big strikeout stuff in shorter outings in Boston with 14 K’s per nine, but the command just hasn’t been consistent. He was shelled by the Giants in his last start for four runs over just 2 23 innings.

The 2018 American League Cy Young winner, like Glasnow, has missed a chunk of time with injury this season. Snell’s season has been a bit more up and down when healthy, though we know the kind of talent he possesses. He’s made just one start since coming back from injury, though he was incredibly impressive as he tossed two perfect innings with four strikeouts against the Dodgers. I would expect three or four innings at the most from Snell in this start. The one time Boston saw him this year they managed just one run over six innings with seven strikeouts and a walk. The lefty will feature a mid-90s fastball, a curveball and a changeup.

Old Friends

Kevin Cash is, of course, a former backup catcher with the Red Sox from last decade. He has since emerged as one of the best managers in the game with the Rays and just clinched a second consecutive 90-win season in Tampa Bay.

Jalen Beeks was the pitcher who went south in the Nathan Eovaldi trade last summer. Given how the rest of 2018 went the Red Sox will never regret that trade. Beeks got off to a solid start this year but his second half has been rough and he’s seen his role reduced in that time.

Notable Position Players

Austin Meadows is an absolute force at the top of the Rays lineup and it’s almost unfair they got him along with Glasnow from the Pirates. The outfielder is merely decent in terms of plate discipline, but he’s a machine when he puts the ball in play, hitting for power and just producing hard contact in general.

Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Tommy Pham is right there with Meadows at the top of the lineup, though he does it differently. There’s solid power in his bat but his value comes from his plate discipline with a strikeout rate under 20 percent and a walk rate of nearly 13 percent.

Ji-Man Choi got off to a bit of a slow start this year but the 1B/DH has been progressively improving in 2019 with better power and patience that has been there all year.

Travis d’Arnaud has slowed down off his torrid pace from when he was first acquired by the Rays, but he’s still been solid behind the plate for Tampa Bay and has been a power threat in the middle of the lineup.

Nate Lowe has solid numbers this year but a lot of it has been fueled by a high BABIP that’s helped mask a strikeout rate that’s too high given his average power and patience.

Avisaíl García isn’t going to walk much and he’ll strike out a bit, but he’s been a guy who has shown an ability to turn balls in play into hits over his career.

Willy Adames is still raw at the plate, but he’s a streaky guy who has been going well of late.

Joey Wendle has been unable to repeat his 2018 when he was a sneaky Rookie of the Year candidate.

Kevin Kiermaier is still great with the glove but hasn’t done a whole lot at the plate in 2019.

Bullpen Snapshot

Emilio Pagán is the closest thing the Rays have to a closer, though they like to mix and match based on matchups in the late innings. Whenever he comes in Pagán is a tough matchup with big strikeout stuff and good control. He can be had by the long ball, but that’s easier said than done even in 2019.

Diego Castillo has huge stuff and in any given outing can look like one of the best relievers in the game. The issue for him is that his command seems to come and go.

Colin Poche is the top left-handed option for the Rays, and like Castillo he has huge stuff but the command hasn’t been consistent enough to truly call him elite.

Injuries

José Alvarado has been hampered by injury all year and went down at the end of last month with inflammation in his elbow. He’s likely done for the year, barring a return late in the postseason if the Rays make a run.

Yandy Díaz was in the midst of a breakout year before going down in July with a foot injury. It’s likely to keep him out for the year.

Yonny Chirinos has been out since early August with a finger injury, but he should be able to return before the end of the year, and potentially at some point in this series.

Brandon Lowe was supposed to be out for the rest of the year with a quad injury, but he’s working his way back and could indeed return before the postseason begins.

Hoby Milner is done for the year with a cervical nerve injury.

Weather Forecast

The Rays play in a dome, so the weather doesn’t matter.