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Series Preview: Red Sox vs. Rays

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The Red Sox have four against the Rays at Fenway this week.

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

SB Nation Blog

DRay’s Bay

The opponent in one sentence

The Rays were a chic pick to make some noise this year and they are coming off a nice weekend, but as they travel to Fenway this week they are still in search of their first road win.

Record

8-8

Head-to-head record

1-1

Trend

Up. The Rays just spent the weekend at home taking on the Yankees for four games in a three-game span. They split their doubleheader on Saturday but took the other two games to make it three of four in that series and four of six overall to heat back up a bit following a five-game skid.

Pitching Matchups

8/10: TBD vs. Ryan Yarbrough, 7:30 PM ET

The Red Sox have yet to announce their plans in the rotation for all but one of the games in this series, which pretty much sums up the state of their starting pitching at the moment. They did call up Dylan Covey over the weekend after optioning the struggling Ryan Weber, so he could provide a little bit of length in what is likely to be something of a bullpen game. Expect to see Covey and likely some Jeffrey Springs in the early innings of this series-opener.

Yarbrough can be a very frustrating lefty as he certainly doesn’t come equipped with any sort of overpowering stuff, but he has good enough command to make it all work and get results. The southpaw has made three starts this year and has put up a 3.78 ERA for a 108 ERA+. That very solidly above-average result is right in line with the rest of his career. The good news is the Red Sox should be well prepared as they faced him just last week and had some success, putting five runs on the board over five innings with five strikeouts and a walk, plus a couple of homers. Yarbrough will feature a cutter, changeup and sinker, with no pitch averaging more than 88 mph of velocity.

8/11: Martín Pérez vs. TBD, 7:30 PM ET

The one starting pitcher that is officially on the schedule on the Red Sox website is Martín Pérez. The lefty could have actually started Monday’s game on normal rest thanks to a day off last week, but the Red Sox seem to be content giving him the extra day. Pérez has not been all that impressive in terms of peripherals this year with 11 strikeouts and nine walks over 15 23 innings, but the results have followed. As I wrote last week, time will tell how long this will be kept up, but it’s not all good fortune leading to the solid numbers. The lefty is also coming off a five scoreless innings performance against Tampa his last time out, so the Rays will be looking for some revenge there.

The script is flipped a bit on this one as it’s the Rays who don’t have a starter for Tuesday’s game as it appears they’ll be going with a bullpen game. With expanded rosters you don’t really need a true long man as much, particularly given the other rotation depth Tampa can offer, but they do have old friend Jalen Beeks who can very well go out and give four or five innings when you need it. I’d expect to see him at some point in this game.

8/12: TBD vs. Blake Snell, 7:30 PM ET

The Red Sox don’t have an announced starter for this one, but Bill Koch reported that Godley is expected to start this one on Wednesday. This will be on short rest for the righty, so it’s probably best to expect only three or four from him here, which essentially makes this another bullpen game. Godley is coming off a solid performance against the Jays over the weekend where he tossed four scoreless. This will be his first time seeing the Rays this year.

Tampa Bay has a trio of guys who have been accurately described as aces in the recent past, but Snell is still the one who scares me the most. Part of it is that he is a lefty and the Red Sox seem to struggle more against southpaws for whatever reason, but also Snell has ridiculous stuff. The 2018 Cy Young winner had an injury-riddled 2019, but he’s getting back into the swing of things slowly this season. He has yet to throw more than three innings in a start, but he’s getting a ton of strikeouts when he does pitch with 14 over eight innings on the year. The Rays hope to get him to five innings in an ideal world in this start. Snell will lean on his mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup and a curveball.

8/13: TBD vs. Tyler Glasnow, 4:30 PM ET

Again, there is no planned starter for this one, and the man who will likely throw the most innings here probably isn’t even on the roster. With essentially two bullpen games already before this, expect to see plenty of pitcher churn throughout this series and likely a new face making the start for the finale. Whether that’s Kyle Hart or Tanner Houck or Mike Kickham or someone else remains to be seen.

The Red Sox see perhaps the nastiest pitcher on this staff in terms of pure stuff on Thursday afternoon in Glasnow. A former top prospect, he never quite put things together with the Pirates but came to Tampa Bay and broke out in a huge way last year. The righty looked like the Cy Young favorite early in the 2019 season but had his year derailed by injury. In the past, control has been the biggest issue for Glasnow and that is rearing its head again so far this year as he’s walked over six batters per nine innings. He’s also already allowed three homers in 11 13 innings, which is how you get to a 5.56 ERA despite striking out 19. He has yet to go five full innings in a start this year. In terms of arsenal, Glasnow is mostly a two-pitch pitcher with a big 97 mph fastball and a nasty curveball.

Old Friends

Note: Much of the rest of this post is copied and pasted from last week’s series preview, as not much has changed in six days.

Manuel Margot never really seemed to have a path to the Red Sox as a defense and speed first outfielder given Jackie Bradley Jr.’s presence, and so it made since he was sent to San Diego as part of the Craig Kimbrel deal. He’s carved out a solid career in the majors, though to this point that’s been as an average regular.

Jalen Beeks is another guy who has served as a bulk arm after an opener and has had some success with the Rays. His body probably won’t allow him to be a 32-start, 200-inning type starter and the consistency hasn’t quite been there early in his career, but the Rays got a nice lefty from the Red Sox a couple years ago. Of course, considering what Eovaldi did in 2018 the Red Sox will never regret that deal.

Kevin Cash is a former backup catcher for the Red Sox who is now at the helm as the Rays manager. He has quickly turned into one of the best and most respected managers in the game.

Notable Position Players

Austin Meadows made his return to the field against the Red Sox last week after missing the start of the year following a positive COVID test. He’s scuffling a bit early on, but it’s only been six games.

Ji-Man Choi has decided he’s a switch hitter sometimes now, which is pretty neat, and with Austin Meadows on the IL he is probably Tampa’s best hitter. That said, he’s striking out a ton early on this season.

Brandon Lowe is off to a scorching start at the top of the Rays lineup and has been an extra base machine. We’re only ten games in, but so far Lowe already has three doubles, two triples and two homers to help push his wRC+ to 187.

Hunter Renfroe was another addition from the Padres outfield along with Margot, although weirdly in different trades. At his best he is a monster power hitter, but early on this year his inability to get on base has masked any of the power.

Willy Adames sort of flies under the radar as a potential star shortstop in this league, but he has the all around skill set to do it. So far this year he has a .438 OBP, though that’s partially thanks to a .500 BABIP.

Yoshi Tsutsugo was a big bat signed from Japan this winter, but he’s having a little bit of a trouble getting into a swing of things early this season.

Yandy Díaz is one of the weirder players in the game in my eyes because he is perhaps the most muscular player in the league but also is an on-base oriented hitter.

Kevin Kiermaier is still in center field and is still known for his defense, which he recently claimed is unmatched in the game and it’s not close. Here’s hoping Jackie Bradley Jr. robs a few homers this week.

Mike Zunino can hit one out at any moment, but his inability to make contact made him borderline unplayable last year and he’s off to another brutal start this season.

Bullpen Snapshot

Nick Anderson is coming off a totally dominant season in 2019, and while he’s yet to allow a run this year he also oddly has yet to record a strikeout.

Diego Castillo is the big late-inning, right-handed set up man who can get a ton of whiffs but does lose his command now and then.

José Alvarado is one of the toughest lefties in the league with a big fastball and frisbee slider. He was on the paternity list over the weekend but should be back this week.

Injuries

Brendan McKay was a late arrival to camp after a positive COVID test but he is working his way back at the Alternate Site now and could be back very soon.

Yonny Chirinos is dealing with inflammation in his triceps and while it’s not a sure thing he could be back as soon as next weekend.

Oliver Drake went down over the weekend with a biceps injury and will be out certainly for this series.

Colin Poche suffered an arm injury in camp and underwent Tommy John surgey at the end of July.

Randy Arozarena was late to camp for undisclosed reasons but is currently working his way back at the Alternate Site.

Weather Forecast

It’s going to be hot and humid at Fenway for most of this weekend before some rain comes in on Wednesday and Thursday. The good news is right now it looks like that rain will be cleared by first pitch for both of those games.