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Red Sox at Rays Series Preview

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A look at this weekend’s huge three-game set against the Rays.

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Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

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DRays Bay

The Opponent in one sentence

The Rays are once again among the top teams in all of baseball, relying on depth as usual but also a whole lot of offense to keep pace with Boston atop this division.

Record

61-42

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 4, Rays 2

Trend

Up. They may have lost two of three to the Yankees, but they’re 8-5 in the second half and are coming off a 14-0 win.

Pitching Matchups

7/30: Martín Pérez vs. Josh Fleming, 7:10 PM ET

Pérez has had a rough go of it in July. He’s allowed a .937 OPS but has escaped with only a 4.74 ERA. I thought he got hosed in his July 18th start against the Yankees, getting yanked after giving up a hit and run single, a bunt single, and a single off weak contact, but giving up four homers in 19 innings isn’t getting the job done.

Josh Fleming is a throwback lefty. Low strikeout, low whiff, sinker/changeup guy. His groundball rate is well north of 50 percent, he doesn’t throw hard, and he features a cutter to play off his sinker. It’s boring, but novel.

7/31: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Ryan Yarbrough, 6:10 PM ET

Eovaldi has continued his stellar season. It’s not a profile that you’d think would lend itself to limiting homers, but he’s second in baseball in HR/9 and HR/FB. His ability to keep the ball in the yard while pounding the zone makes him a favorite amongst older metrics like FIP, but he’s a favorite among the statcast metrics, too. There’s a lot of red on his Statcast page, meaning he’s limiting hard contact. He’s not one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he’s a solid mid-rotation force as long as he stays healthy.

Yarbrough has gotten rocked by Boston this year. He’s given up seven runs in 14 innings. A soft-tossing lefty sounds like the best matchup imaginable for this team loaded with right-handed power hitters.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

8/1: Nick Pivetta vs. Shane McClanahan, 7:08 PM ET

Pivetta has some of the widest range of probable outcomes from game to game as any other starter in baseball. Lately, those outcomes have been bad. In his past three starts he has an ERA over 7, giving up a litany of hard contact. Granted, the Jays are tough opponents but he’s going to be pitching against good teams down the stretch and possibly in the playoffs, so he needs to buckle up. The Rays might be a good team for him to reset. The last time he faced them he no-hit them for 6.2 innings before being pulled after 100 pitches.

Shane McClanahan’s rookie season has been up and down but there’s a lot of promise in his arm. With the way baseball is moving with starters throwing fewer and fewer innings and a larger emphasis on bullpens, two pitch starters like McClanahan have a better shot at succeeding in a rotation, particularly with a progressive organization like the Rays that know how to utilize a player like this. It’s an electric fastball/slider combination with a change and curve that flash. The command is inconsistent as is the shape of the slider. He will be fun to watch.

Old Friends

Jeffrey Springs left the Red Sox and became a serviceable reliever. Somehow he’s giving up 1.9 HR/9 and has an expected ERA in the low 3’s.

Chris Mazza is an up and down guy for the Rays. With their laundry list of bullpen injuries he’s been called up.

Jalen Beeks is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Collin McHugh is on the IL with vague “arm fatigue” but has been incredible while on the mound in a multiinning role.

Notable Position Players

Brandon Lowe has had himself a nice little career so far and he’s kept it up, virtually coping his 2019 line minus 50 points of batting average that he’s made up for with a massive jump in walk rate. He leads the team in home runs with 22.

Ji-Man Choi can do the splits. He can also get on base. He’s not a huge power threat, but he gets on base.

Nelson Cruz is the newest offensive acquisition. He’s had the second half of a Hall of Fame career and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down at 41.

Austin Meadows hasn’t found the success he enjoyed in 2019, a season that saw him get down ballot MVP votes, but he’s been a productive left fielder.

Randy Arozarena has not seen the monstrous success he found last year. The 26 year old has had an up and down season. Right now he’s going through one of his up phases, having hit for a 1.127 OPS the last week.

Joey Wendle doesn’t really show off much patience, but he does make good contact on a consistent basis which has helped to stay safely above league-average at the plate this year.

Wander Franco has struggled to produce at the Major League level his first time through the league. This isn’t unexpected. For as advanced a prospect Franco was, the gap between AAA pitching and MLB pitching has never been larger and it often takes time for prospects to adjust. He’s not striking out a ton, which is a good sign for him.

Mike Zunino is having a weird season. He’s hitting below .200, on basing below .300, but his massive power makes him one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. His .314 ISO is sixth in baseball amongst hitters with 230 or more plate appearnaces, sandwiched between new Red Sox Kyle Schwarber and Ronald Acuna Jr.

Kevin Kiermaier is still a wunderkind out in center field. He can’t hit worth a lick but that’s why he’s hitting 9th.

Bullpen Snapshot

Andrew Kittredge is the new closer after the Rays dealt Diego Castillo yesterday. The All-Star has the 3rd best reliever ERA in baseball behind Craig Kimbrel and Kendall Graveman.

Jeffrey Springs left the Sox and became a good reliever through Rays magic. He strikes out a ton of guys but gives up a bunch of homers.

Matt Wisler leads all of baseball in slider frequency, throwing it 90% of the time. After starting the season in San Francisco, the former top 100 prospect has thrown up an ERA in the low 2’s.

Injuries

Chris Archer has been shelved since early April with forearm tightness. He started a rehab assignment on July 12 and is making his next rehab appearance August 1.

Yonny Chirinos had Tommy John surgery in August of last year. He’ll miss the remainder of the season.

Tyler Glasnow suffered a partially torn UCL shortly after the sticky stuff got banned. He’s been trying to rehab it and was playing catch a little over a week ago.

Nick Anderson has been out with a partially torn UCL since late March. He started his rehab assignment on July 23 in rookie ball and should return to the bigs in August.

Jalen Beeks blew his elbow last September and won’t return this season.

Oliver Drake suffered a flexor strain last October. He was set to begin a rehab assignment on July 13th but suffered a setback.

Pete Fairbanks was put on the 10-day IL yesterday with shoulder inflammation. There is no timetable for his return.

Tommy Hunter, who was just traded to the Rays in the Rich Hill deal, has been on the IL with a back injury since mid-May and may not return this season.

Collin McHugh was placed on the 10-day IL on July 22 with “arm fatigue”. I don’t know what this means or when he’ll be back, but he’ll be eligible to come off the IL on August 1st.

Colin Poche had Tommy John surgery in late July of 2020. It was announced yesterday that he will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Cody Reed is out for the season after having a thoracic outlet syndrome decompression procedure. He should pitch next year.

Chaz Roe is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in late June.

Ryan Thompson has been out since late June with shoulder inflammation. Kevin Cash said that he is “finally making some good strides,” yesterday.

J.P. Feyereisen was placed on the 10-day IL with shoulder discomfort last week. There was no structural damage but he should be staying on the IL longer than the minimum.

Weather Forecast

Room temperature!