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Series Preview: Going Back To Boston

New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox - July 23, 2004 Photo by J Rogash/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays will look to put the past behind them on their way to face the Boston Red Sox in a weekend series.

The Red Sox return home after a 3-3 road trip against the Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers.

The Matchups:

Friday 7:10 PM: Alex Cobb vs Rick Porcello

Saturday 7:10 PM: Blake Snell vs Chris Sale

Sunday 1:35 PM: Matt Andriese vs Drew Pomeranz

Chris Sale and others.

Last year Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young Award. His strikeouts are up almost 2.5%, but his home run rate has soared. His HR/FB rate is up 4.5% and he’s allowed 4.6% more fly balls on balls in play. He’s coming off a seven innings start against the Twins where he allowed one run. The Rays roughed him up in their first meeting this year. He allowed eight runs over 4.1 innings and allowed four home runs.

Chris Sale will take the mound Saturday night. With David Price on the disabled list, Chris Sale has been the unquestioned leader of the Red Sox rotation. Sale has been absolutely dominant on the mound owning a 1.92 ERA and 1.45 FIP. He’s only allowed batters to hit .166/.223/.226 and a .206 wOBA this year. The Red Sox haven’t scored many runs in support of Sale as he’s only 3-2 despite averaging over seven innings per start.

Sale is coming off his worst, start of the year, which wasn’t even all that terrible — he gave up four runs in six innings. In their first meeting the Rays only managed one run in seven innings off Sale while striking out twelve times.

Drew Pomeranz continues to disappoint since being traded to the Red Sox last July. In six starts he has only managed 31.0 innings of 5.23 ERA and 4.70 FIP baseball. His strikeout and walk rates are very similar to his numbers from last season, but his HR/FB rate has spiked to 21.9%, which has translated to 2.03 homers per nine innings. Pomeranz is coming off his worst start of the year. He allowed six runs over 4.0 innings against the Brewers. The Rays struck out ten times in 4.1 innings in their first meeting. However the Rays put up five runs and hit two homers.

Craig Kimbrel is throwing the ball as well as he was during his Atlanta days.

Kimbrel being back to prime form isn’t a good thing for opposing batters. He’s allowed a 1.15 ERA and 0.47 FIP, alongside an absurd, career high 55.0% strikeout rate. The biggest improvement has come via a 3.6% walk rate. His career walk rate is 9.9%.

Heath Hembree has been quite good if you look at his 2.65 ERA and 1.77 FIP. He has picked up five shutdowns, but has picked up four meltdowns. His strikeout rate is up to 25.6%.

Joe Kelly has picked up the most innings out of the pen. He has a 2.00 ERA and 3.63 FIP in eighteen innings. Despite a fastball that approaches 100 MPH he hasn’t picked up the strikeouts. His strikeout rate is at 11.1% and is below his 12.5% walk rate. He’s hasn’t allowed a homer yet.

The Red Sox bullpen comes in about as fresh as one would expect. Kimbrel picked up five outs yesterday, but is only the second time he’s pitched in the past week.

The Red Sox bats have picked up the pace.

The Red Sox are still second to last in MLB with 30 homers, but they put the ball in play. Their 16.3% strikeout rate is lowest in the league and clears second place by almost two percent. They take advantage of the BABIP inflation environment that is Fenway Park. They are hitting .277/.348/.419 and 108 wRC+ as a team.

Mookie Betts has broken out of his early season slump and is now batting .311/.391/.533 and 151 wRC+. He is tied for the team lead with five homers with Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez.

Andrew Benintendi is looking like a favorite in the Rookie of the Year race. He’s batting .316/.380/.481 and 133 wRC+.

Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, and Mitch Moreland are all hitting the ball well with wRC+ north of 100.

The Rays have an opportunity to pick up games in the standing facing an ALE foe.

The Red Sox are 2.5 games ahead of the Rays in the American League East standings with a 18-16 record. The Rays have the opportunity to pick up a few wins while putting a few losses on teams above them in the standings.