Series Preview: Rays Versus Red Sox

Jim Rogash

For second year in a row it's Rays vs Red Sox For Patriots Day Weekend

For the second year in a row the Rays will visit Fenway Park on Patriots Day weekend to take on the Boston Red Sox and hope this year the team performs much better than last years. The Rays enter the weekend with a record of 4-5 to take on the Red Sox who have a record of 5-4.

Pitching Matchups:

Alex Cobb versus Felix Doubront, Friday 7:10 PM
David Price versus Jon Lester, Saturday 1:10 PM
Jeremy Hellickson vs Clay Buchholz, Sunday 1:35
Roberto Hernandez vs Ryan Dempster, Monday 11:05.

Weather:

Tonight's game is in jeopardy due to a heavy rain event expected in the New England area. For now the forecast shows rain until around 10PM so we could be in for a long night and a short turn around for tomorrow's afternoon tilt. The weather for the rest of the series appears to be cool and dry. In the event of a doubleheader the Rays will have Jake Odorizzi available on normal rest on Sunday.

A year ago:

Last years Patriot Day series was painful to watch as the Red Sox took 3 out of the 4 games and wore the Rays bullpen out in the process. The Red Sox laid a 12-2 whooping on the Rays in the opener, hammered them 13-5 in the second game, and seemingly laced a line drive on everything Matt Moore threw in winning the third game 6-4. The Rays were saved on Patriots Day primarily due to James Shields delivering a gem by tossing 8.1 shutout innings. Fernando Rodney came in and preserved the 1-0 victory thanks in large part to a frame job by Jose Molina to get a called third strike on Cody Ross to end the game with the tying run on second.

2013 Red Sox:

The Red Sox team that the Rays faced a season ago, the one that finished last in the AL East with a 69-93 record, has been gutted. Bobby Valentine was let go at the end of the season and shortly after they traded Mike Aviles to the Toronto Blue Jays for John Farrell (and David Carpenter) to be the organizations 46th manager.

The Red Sox did a reboot to their roster on August 25th of last season when they dealt Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers in exchange for current Rays 1b James Loney and prospects Jerry Sands, Ruby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Ivan Dejesus.

The roster makeover continued over the winter with the departures of Cody Ross, James Loney, Ryan Sweeney and Daisake Matsuzaka. Even though a large amount of salary was cleared in the mega-deal with the Dodgers the Red Sox were not big time players for the top free agents Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke.

Instead they brought in several of the lower tier free agents including catcher David Ross, first baseman/DH Mike Napoli, shortstop Stephen Drew, outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, and reliever Koji Uehara. The also traded Ivan Dejesus, Mark Melancon, and Jerry Sands to the Pittsburgh Pirates for closer Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt, purchased Mike Carp from the Seattle Mariners, and re-signed David Ortiz. Overall 8 players on their opening day roster were playing a major league game in a Red Sox uniform for the first time and 7 players were on an opening day roster for the first time in their career.

The Position Players:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C),Mike Napoli (1b), Dustin Pedroia (2b), Stephen Drew (SS), Will Middlebrooks (3b), Jackie Bradley (LF), Jacoby Ellsbury (CF), Shane Victorino (RF), and Jonny Gomes (DH). The bench includes Mike Carp (1b/OF), and Daniel Nava (1b/OF), Pedro Ciriaco (UTIL), and David Ross (C)

The Starting Staff:

Jon Lester (LHP), Clay Buchholz (RHP), Ryan Dempster (RHP), Alfredo Aceves (RHP), and Felix Doubront (LHP).

The Bullpen:

Joel Hanrahan (RHP), Koji Uehara (RHP), Junichi Tazawa (RHP), Alex Wilson (RHP), Clayton Mortensen (RHP), Andrew Bailey (RHP), and Andrew Miller (LHP).

Notables On The Trainers Table:

DH David Ortiz began his rehab assignment in Pawtucket last night and is expected to return in about a week, and pitchers John Lackey (bicep), Craig Breslow (shoulder), and Franklin Morales (back) are all on the 15-day disabled list.

The Red Sox Offense:

The Rays are going to have to keep an eye on the Red Sox on the basepaths as John Farrell has shown a willingness to allow his players to run. Entering Thursday evenings game against the Baltimore Orioles the Red Sox had a AL leading 8 stolen bases and Jacoby Ellsbury leads the way with 4. The offense, even without David Ortiz, once again looks formidable. The lineup has generally has Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino setting the table for Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, and Daniel Nava.

The Red Sox have plenty of lineup options to mix and match with three switch hitters, Jarod Saltalamacchia, Shane Victorino, and Daniel Nava, to choose from. Many were anticipating great things from Jackie Bradley who made the team out of spring training but has yet to find success hitting .130 (3 for 23) with 7 strikeouts but he has shown a good eye drawing 6 walks in 30 plate appearances.

The Red Sox Defense:

The Red Sox set a franchise record for consecutive games (7) to start a season without an error before making 2 errors in their Wednesday evening contest against the Orioles.

The Bullpen

The Red Sox bullpen has been bolstered by the addition of Koji Uehara who has worked 18 straight scoreless outings dating back to September 1st of 2012 (14.2 consecutive innings) and has worked 4 games this season. Joel Hanrahan was roughed up by the Orioles in his last appearance on Wednesday night giving up 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning in taking the loss. Andrew Miller is the only left-handed reliever in the pen. Last night Alex Miller became the first major league pitcher born in Saudi Arabia and only the second player overall joining 2b Craig Stansberry of the San Diego Padres (2007-2009). Andrew Bailey is healthy and looks to be back to a high leverage back end reliever.

The Starting Staff

Entering Thursday nights action the Red Sox starting staff led the majors with a 2.38 ERA and had held the opposition to three earned runs or less in all eight games and less than two earned runs in six of those games.

Felix Doubront

The lefty has made one start against the Blue Jays this season and gave up 3R/ER on 9 hits in 5 innings while striking out 6 and walking 0. In 2012 he made 29 starts (161.2 innings pitched) posting a record of 11-11 with a 4.86 ERA and had a strike out rate of 9.3 K/9 and a walk rate of 4.0 BB/9. He throws a mix of a 4-seam fastball (45%/92.3 mph), sinker (20%/92.99), cutter (6%/87.1), curveball (16%/76.91), and a changeup (13%/85.97).

When behind in the count he likes to throw his 4-seam fastball which isn't good for him as hitters posted a batting average of .299 and a slugging percentage of .523 against that pitch. When he is ahead in the count he likes to throw his curveball and he has had much success keeping the opposition to a batting average of .177 and a slugging percentage of .290. The Rays may have the most success by trying to take him deep into counts and looking for the fastball when he falls behind in the count.

Jon Lester

In 2012 Jon Lester had a sub-par season posting a 9-14 record (205.1 innings pitched) with a 4.82 ERA but a more favorable 4.11 FIP and still had an fWAR of 3.3. Thus far in 2013 Lester appears to be closer to the ACE form then the 2012 form. In his two starts he has worked 12 innings and allowed only 2R/ER while striking out 13 and walking only 2.

His arsenal is not heavy in any one pitch. He throws a 4-seam fastball (38%/93.99 mph), sinker (15%/92.61), cutter (23%/89.86), curveball (16%/77.37), and changeup (8%/85.87). He likes to start the hitters off with his 4-seam fastball on the first pitch and the opposition posts an average against that pitch of .295 and a slugging percentage of .506. The Rays may have the best results by going to the plate looking to drive the first pitch fastball. In his career hitters who swing at the first pitch are hitting .317/.328/.494 against him.

Clay Buchholz

In 2012 Clay Buccholz was looking to rebound from an injury filled 2011 and made 29 starts (189.1 inning pitched) and posted a record of 11-8 with an ERA of 4.56 and a FIP of 4.65. He is looking to return to his 2010 form when he posted a record of 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA and a FIP of 3.61. So far so good in 2013 as he has made 2 starts and worked 14 innings allowing only 1R/ER while striking out 12 but walking 6.

He has a full compliment of pitches: a 4-seam fastball (28%/94.1 mph), sinker (22%/93.67), cutter (14%/90.49), slider (3%/85.23), curveball (13%/78.2), changeup (19%/80.92), splitter (1%/86.04). He looks to spot the fastball to get ahead in the count and tries to put hitters away with his curveball. In his career he has given up 69 homers and 32 of them came against the 4-seam fastball. Much like Alex Cobb of the Rays Buchholz gets stronger as the game goes along so the Rays are going to want to attack and make him uncomfortable early.

Ryan Dempster

In 2012 Ryan Dempster pitched for the Cubs and the Rangers and posted an overall record of 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA and a 3.69 FIP. His highest quality work came with the Cubs where he made 16 starts (104 innings) and went 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA. His introduction to AL baseball didn't go as smoothly making 12 starts (69 innings) for the Rangers and finishing 7-3 with an ERA of 5.09. He has made 2 starts for the Red Sox in 2013 working 10 innings allowing 6R/4ER while striking out 15 and walking 6.

He primarily uses 4 pitches: 4-seam fastball (21%/91.45 mph), sinker (32%/91.26), slider (32%/85.38), and splitter (13%/82.55). He doesn't avoid or overuse any pitch based on count so the Rays will have to be ready for any pitch at any time.

In his career left handed batters have posted an OPS of .807 with a slash line of .274/.368/.439 while he's held right handers to a .701 OPS with a slash line of .245/.316/.385. It should be noted that in 2012 he did very well holding left handed hitters to an OPS of .618 but thus far in 2013 left handed hitters have an OPS of .884.

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