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Series Preview: Rays host Red Sox for two-game set

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Tampa Bay Rays
Let’s see more of this, guys!
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Souza Jr. saved the Tampa Bay Rays from a sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers with his walk off homer Sunday afternoon. The team got to savor the win with a rare day off on Monday.

The Boston Red Sox come in winners of six in a row.

While the Red Sox lead the American League East, the Rays gained a half a game and are now tied for the second wild card due to a Kansas City Royals loss last night. The Rays trail the Red Sox by 5.5 games.

The Matchups:

Tuesday 7:10 PM: Chris Sale vs Austin Pruitt
Wednesday 7:10 PM: Rick Porcello vs Jake Odorizzi

Chris Sale looks to rebound.

Thanks to a weekend rain-out, the Rays get to start the series against one of the league’s best pitchers.

Lakeland High School graduate Chris Sale takes the mound for the Red Sox. Sale has a 2.70 ERA and 2.07 FIP. His excellent season features a 36.1% strikeout rate and 4.7% walk rate. Sale has been platoon neutral this year allowing a .247 wOBA to left handed batters and .243 wOBA to right handed batters.

He had three consecutive scoreless outings heading into his last time out against the Cleveland Indians. So naturally the Indians put up seven runs in five innings. This will be the fourth time Sale has faced the Rays this season. His last time out the Rays touched him up for four runs in seven innings in a Red Sox loss.

Rick Porcello is having one of the most disappointing followup campaigns for a Cy Young Award winner. Porcello has a 4.70 ERA and 4.33 FIP. His 20.8% strikeout rate is slightly lower and his 4.4% walk rate is a little higher. Porcello is having a homer problem. He’s already allowed 26 homers after allowing 23 in almost 80 more innings pitched. The Chicago White Sox put up five runs in 5.1 innings in his last start. In his first two starts against the Rays Porcello allowed 13 runs in 10.1 innings, but the last time out he held the Rays to one run over eight innings.

The Red Sox bullpen added Addison Reed

At the trade deadline the Red Sox traded for Addison Reed from the New York Mets. This year Reed has a 2.56 ERA and 3.24 FIP. His strikeout rate has fallen to 24.5%, but he’s walked only 2.8% of batters faced.

Craig Kimbrel has had an absolutely dominant season. He has a 1.51 ERA and 1.27 FIP. His strikeout rate is up to an absurd 49.2%. Typically Kimbrel has some wildness to him, but has limited walks to 4.5% of batters faced this year.

Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Joe Kelly have made positive contributions to the Red Sox bullpen.

The Red Sox bullpen should be at full strength for the start of the series thanks to the day off yesterday. Kimbrel had thrown in three straight.

The Red Sox offense has struggled since the all-star break.

Since the break the Red Sox are hitting .243/.309/.382 and have put up a 78 wRC+.

The Red Sox traded for Eduardo Nunez from the San Francisco Giants and promoted Rafael Devers to fill the void at third base. Through 42 plate appearances Nunez has put up a 222 wRC+ and has hit four homers. Devers has also hit the ground running with a 173 wRC+ and three homers in 49 plate appearances.

Dustin Pedroia was activated from the disabled list this afternoon. Of regulars he leads the team with a 109 wRC+. Mookie Betts follows with a 108 wRC+. Andrew Benintendi’s 100 wRC+ is the only other bat that has been at least average with a minimum of 100 plate apperances.

It’s a short series against the division leader.

The Rays get started with a tough match-up, made tougher by their lack of success against left handed pitching. Chris Sale has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the league.

Winning two would be great, of course, but a split would be much more likely and still acceptable outcome.