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Series Preview: Rays take on Red Sox

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Four game series between division rivals heading into All Star Break

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics
Let’s hope we force this guy to break a sweat
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays return home after a 4-4 road trip to face the Boston Red Sox for four games. The Red Sox are coming off a loss to the Texas Rangers, but had won their previous six games. Currently the Rays sit five and a half games behind the Red Sox in the American League East.

The Matchups:

Thursday 7:10 PM: Chris Sale vs Jacob Faria
Friday 7:10 PM: Drew Pomeranz vs Jake Odorizzi
Saturday 4:10 PM: Rick Porcello vs Alex Cobb
Sunday 1:10 PM: David Price vs Chris Archer

Three lefties scheduled to face the Rays.

Lakeland native Chris Sale has put up his most dominating season to date. Sale currently possesses a 2.61 ERA and 2.06 FIP. His strikeout rate is at a career high 35.5% and his walk rate is a career low 4.7%. In only 120.1 innings he’s put up a ridiculous 5.1 fWAR. In his last outing he held the Toronto Blue Jays scoreless for seven innings. In his last start against the Rays he allowed three runs and two homers in seven innings.

Drew Pomeranz has a 3.64 ERA and 3.63 FIP. He’s been remarkably consistent. In 13 of his 16 starts he has allowed two or fewer runs. In his three other starts he has allowed five runs once and six runs twice. In his first start of the season against the Rays he allowed five runs in 4.1 innings. In his last start against the Rays he held them to two runs, but only lasted three innings.

Last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello hasn’t had the followup campaign he hoped for. He has a 5.01 ERA and 4.21 FIP. His strikeouts are down slightly and walks are up a little. His homers allowed had spiked by almost 50%. In his last start he allowed three runs and two homers in 6.1 innings to the Texas Rangers. In two starts this season against the Rays he has allowed 13 runs in 10.1 innings and allowed five homers.

Former Ray David Price’s season has been, well, interesting. Sidelined by injury, he didn’t make his first start until the end of May. His performance since then has been wanting: his strikeouts are down to his lowest rate since 2013 and his walk rate is his highest since 2010. A 4.02 ERA and 4.45 FIP isn’t what you expect when you sign a pitcher to a 7/$217MM deal. And on top of these performance issues, he has been battling with the Boston media. Price is, however, coming off his best start of the season. He held the Rangers scoreless for six innings.

Craig Kimbrel is doing his best to replicate Zach Britton’s 2016.

Craig Kimbrel is putting up one of the best years of his career. He was absolutely dominant during his tenure with the Atlanta Braves. With the Padres and year one with the Red Sox he was good, but not quite what he was in Atlanta. This year though he’s been every bit as dominant as he ever has been. He has a 1.23 ERA and 0.89 FIP. His 49.6% strikeout rate is ridiculous, but also helping is his walk rate is down almost 10% from last year to 3.8%.

Joe Kelly has been the go to guy before Kimbrel. He has a 1.04 ERA, but has a 3.01 FIP. He doesn’t strike many out and walks more than average. He hasn’t allowed a homer this season.

Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Blaine Boyer have had solid seasons.

Kelly and Kimbrel are well rested as their last appearance was Monday. The rest of the bullpen has been used the last two days.

The Red Sox have disappointed offensively.

Last season the Red Sox had the best offense in baseball averaging 5.41 runs per game. This season they are down to 4.93 runs per game. They have hit .270/.342/.422 and put up a 98 wRC+. The offense is helped by the hitter-friendly Fenway Park. They hit for average and get on base, but hit for relatively little power.

After losing David Ortiz the offense has more depth than big bats. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (122 wRC+), Mookie Betts (119 wRC+), Andrew Benintendi (112 wRC+), Xander Bogaerts (111 wRC+), Mitch Moreland (110 wRC+), and Hanley Ramirez (104 wRC+) have been above average performers at the plate.

The Rays welcome Brendan McKay to the organization.

On Friday Brendan McKay will be in attendance and be recognized by the organization. It is the first home game since he signed and should be sent Hudson Valley within the next week.

The Rays face an important challenge over the next four days. The division-leading Red Sox throw three lefties against the Rays including two of the best in baseball in Chris Sale and David Price. The Rays offense has been significantly worse against left handed pitchers, so it will be a difficult series.

But anything can happen once the players get on the field. Hopefully the Rays can take the series and go into the All Star Break on a high note.