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Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox

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The Rays roll into Boston fresh off their first series win of the year.

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The Rays head up to Boston to take on the Red Sox for this mid-week showdown. Boston comes in off a split of a four game series against Toronto that ended in a disappointment, for them, on Patriots' Day.

Matchups:

Tuesday: Drew Smyly vs Joe Kelly

Wednesday: Chris Archer vs Rick Porcello

Thursday: TBA (Any way this isn't Jake Odorizzi?) vs David Price

Kevin Cash went out of his way to say that they know who is starting (hence TBA -- to be announced -- as opposed to TBD -- to be decided), but they are not saying.   The date would put Odorizzi on the mound with an extra day of rest. The Rays will have to throw a bullpen day or Erasmo start again this week and it is an outside possibility.  So it could be that Cash and co. want to wait and see how rested the bullpen looks on Thursday, or it could be that they just want to mess with their opponents a bit.  And who can fault them for that?

Red Sox Starting Pitching vs Opposite Handed Batters (last 3+ seasons):

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Joe Kelly 178.2 17.2% 9.8% 8.4% 0.250 0.327 0.380 0.313 3.17 3.97
Rick Porcello 300.2 17.1% 6.4% 12.4% 0.278 0.330 0.441 0.335 3.92 4.10
David Price 507.0 25.6% 4.6% 8.9% 0.238 0.276 0.377 0.286 3.02 2.87

The Rays have two good opportunities to turn on some offense against two mediocre pitchers in Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello. After signing the 4 year $82.5MM extension at the beginning of last season Porcello failed to live up to expectations as he posted an ERA of 4.92. The peripherals behind it looked much better as he had a 4.13 FIP, but has had trouble keeping base runners from scoring as he only left 67.5% on base (69.6% career).

Thursday the Rays face their former leader of their own rotation, David Price. This is an interesting match-up with the Rays very aggressive approach. It's one of those games that I can see either outcome of him getting hit pretty hard as the Rays offense takes advantage of him being around the strike zone or Price delivering a less than 100 pitch complete game shutout.

The Rays should have the advantage on the mound in the first two bouts, but the advantage turns to Boston for game three. How big that advantage may be depends on whom the Rays start. If Odorizzi takes his turn in the rotation, no idea why he wouldn't, he could be required to stay pitch for pitch with Price as he did on Friday night against Chris Sale.

Red Sox Relivers:

Toronto did the Rays a favor by working the back end of the Red Sox bullpen on Monday morning's game. Koji Uehara started the inning trying to hold the Red Sox 1-0 lead, but would be a complete disaster as he allowed a leadoff single, two walks, a hit by pitch, and would record his only out while allowing the tying run to score. Uehara would be taxed by being forced to throw 25 pitches in his 0.1 innings of work. Craig Kimbrel to throw 23 pitches as he tried to keep the game tied 1-1 when he entered the game with the bases loaded with one out.

Uehara and Kimbrel would both pitch in three of the four games against the Blue Jays. Huge thanks to Toronto for making at least the path to victory on Tuesday much easier.

Vs Right Handed Hitters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Craig Kimbrel 95.2 38.7% 9.7% 8.8% 0.139 0.232 0.209 0.208 1.60 2.16
Koji Uehara 87.2 34.5% 3.0% 7.2% 0.190 0.221 0.327 0.240 1.64 1.92
Junichi Tazawa 107.1 24.4% 5.6% 8.1% 0.252 0.299 0.407 0.307 3.27 3.04
Matt Barnes 32.2 22.2% 6.0% 16.7% 0.324 0.369 0.551 0.394 5.51 4.81
Robbie Ross 133.0 16.7% 7.9% 12.9% 0.280 0.349 0.406 0.332 4.06 4.13
Tommy Layne 30.1 15.7% 14.3% 12.5% 0.306 0.421 0.496 0.393 5.34 5.17
Noe Ramirez 16.1 21.9% 11.0% 21.1% 0.270 0.370 0.508 0.376 4.41 6.19

As a right handed hitter you likely won't want to see Kimbrel and Uehara in the game. Tazawa has been a reliable pitcher out of the pen, but the rest of the pen is fairly weak.

Vs Left Handed Hitters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Craig Kimbrel 98.1 37.7% 9.2% 11.1% 0.183 0.263 0.283 0.247 2.11 2.18
Koji Uehara 98.1 32.7% 4.7% 10.0% 0.153 0.194 0.287 0.209 1.92 2.65
Junichi Tazawa 87.1 24.6% 5.0% 11.0% 0.259 0.296 0.425 0.311 3.40 3.17
Matt Barnes 24.2 18.8% 8.9% 9.7% 0.287 0.364 0.475 0.366 4.38 4.35
Robbie Ross 74.0 20.6% 7.2% 11.1% 0.278 0.348 0.441 0.346 5.35 3.95
Tommy Layne 47.0 24.9% 10.5% 3.8% 0.176 0.278 0.217 0.235 1.53 2.89
Noe Ramirez 3.0 25.0% 18.8% 0.0% 0.231 0.375 0.231 0.268 6.00 3.46

Uehara is a really tough pitcher against left handed hitters; Tommy Layne can be equally tough. Robbie Ross is a lefty out of the pen that has had fairly equal trouble in getting left and right handed batters out.

Red Sox Batters:

Player PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Mookie Betts 918 25 30 7.4% 13.8% 0.288 0.342 0.467 0.350 119
Dustin Pedroia 1805 28 25 9.2% 11.5% 0.291 0.356 0.406 0.336 109
Xander Bogaerts 1347 21 15 5.9% 19.4% 0.280 0.326 0.392 0.316 95
David Ortiz 1860 105 5 12.7% 15.2% 0.282 0.372 0.548 0.385 143
Brock Holt 1110 8 21 8.3% 18.5% 0.275 0.338 0.376 0.317 96
Travis Shaw 288 14 1 8.0% 23.6% 0.277 0.340 0.492 0.357 125
Hanley Ramirez 1326 53 31 8.0% 16.4% 0.288 0.350 0.489 0.363 133
Christian Vazquez 208 1 0 9.1% 16.3% 0.247 0.312 0.319 0.283 74
Jackie Bradley, Jr. 822 14 14 8.4% 27.9% 0.215 0.289 0.348 0.283 73
Ryan Hanigan 735 9 1 11.2% 14.6% 0.217 0.318 0.300 0.280 74
Chris Young 1109 37 21 8.8% 21.9% 0.222 0.297 0.402 0.305 94
Marco Hernandez 3 0 1 33.3% 0.0% 0.500 0.667 0.500 0.524 256
Josh Rutledge 741 12 14 6.3% 23.1% 0.256 0.312 0.368 0.301 74

The Red Sox offense to this point in the season has been carried by David Ortiz (.306/.444/.694, .471 wOBA, 217 wRC+), Travis Shaw (.342/.432/.553, .426 wOBA, 184 wRC+), and Brock Holt (.267/.405/.533, .407 wOBA, 170 wRC+).

Hanley Ramirez has seen a rebound to start the season with a .306/.327/.469, .334 wOBA, 115 wRC+ start to the season. Ramirez was an adventure in left field last year for Boston and the Rays might have played a part in his disastrous -1.8 fWAR season when he injured his shoulder. Reports are he's doing well acclimating to first base.

Avoiding the landmines in the lineup will be a key for the Rays pitchers. Keeping Mookie Betts (.222/.236/.370, .263 wOBA, 63 wRC+) quiet will also be important.

Time for the Rays bats to come alive.

The Rays bats have a chance to continue building off of their solid weekend against John Danks and Jose Quintana. The Rays move to a much more hitter friendly environment and the weak Red Sox pitching could provide the perfect opportunity for some productive offense.

I like the Rays chances in this series as they'll probably be favorites in two of three.  Even Thursday's match-up against David Price could go their way when the Rays aggressive offense faces off against a pitcher who likes to throw strikes.