A mid-to-late April MLB series is still within the realm of “too early to really tell” when it comes to sweeping conclusions about the season, however, this weekend’s Ray-Red Sox series has the feel of a series that could go a long ways in determining each team’s trajectory.
The Rays have gotten off to the best start in baseball, sitting atop the league-wide standings at 14-5, even after an annoying loss to the Baltimore Joey Rickards on Thursday evening. On the other hand, the reigning World Series champion Red Sox have gotten off to the second-worst start in baseball, with their 6-13 record (and negative 42 run differential) top only the Triple-A club masquerading as an MLB team in Miami.
The Rays lead all of baseball with a 2.50 ERA; the Red Sox are on the other side of the spectrum, ranking 30th in the sport with a 6.01 ERA. The Rays offense ranks third in baseball, while the Red Sox toil away in 24th. The Rays hold an eight-game lead on the Red Sox through just 19 games, and they lead the AL East by 5.5 games — a bigger division lead than the rest of the division leaders in baseball combined.
Of course, all of this could change with the Red Sox finding this weekend as their time to turn things around. Mookie Betts is undoubtedly better than a 78 wRC+ true talent; Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t going to slug .185 for the entire season; at least one of their top three starters is going to carry an ERA below 6.00 by the end of the season, right?! The team is screaming for some positive regression, and while the Rays are clearly better than many pundits thought, they also aren’t a true talent 119-win team (their current pace).
If the Rays can take two out of three from the Sox, or heaven forbid: sweep them, it would go a long ways in burying the Red Sox and making this a two-team race for the AL East. Even as is, the Sox face a long history of teams starting as cold as they have making the playoffs.
Of course, the flip side of that is just how big a Red Sox sweep (and to a lesser extent: taking two out of three) would be in reigniting the Sox. A sweep would put the Sox just five games back at a times in the season when games back honestly shouldn’t even be mentioned. It would also wreck havoc on the good vibes the club is rolling with right now, and could potentially derail the fast start. The team appears to be quite mentally strong, but it would be a big test, to say the least.
We may be months and months away from any sort of playoff push, but the Rays will undoubtedly be looking at this series as a big chance to make a statement and potentially stick the early-season dagger in one of their biggest rivals to the throne in both the East and the American League as a whole. Should make for good viewing.
- Rays set pitching plans for Red Sox series — Speaking of the Sox series, it appears as though the Rays will use their vaunted Opener in game one, followed by Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow. It would’ve been great to have their ace in the rotation, but granite stands gonna granite stand, am I right?!
- Red-hot Rays — for now, the AL’s best — barrel into first battle against champion Red Sox — USA Today with the series preview.
- Best bullpen trios in baseball — No shade to Stanek, but if it’s top duos, I think the Rays are number one. Rays are still number four, and Stanek is a G who is probably slightly underrated because of all the roles he takes on for the club.
Rays Media Content
- Bullpenning with the MLB Network treatment
What's the state of bullpenning?@RaysBaseball is blazing a trail with their revolutionary use of #TheOpener. #MLBNow pic.twitter.com/EKKVhNYx6b— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) April 18, 2019
- Tyler Glasnow on the Rays fast start with Jim Rome
Tweet of the Day
Animating game by game run differentials... @RaysBaseball has the highest run differential at +47. pic.twitter.com/ruhGXcB1cL— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 18, 2019
Around the League
- Each AL East team’s secret weapon is... — Juan giving some Sucre love even though he’s in Baltimore now, love it.
- Injury severity index: Blake Snell’s toe woe, Rougned Odor’s mounting durability concerns and more — The Athletic’s fantasy baseball injury tracker is a little worried about Snell’s toe issue lingering past his return... Hopefully they are wrong AF
- From ‘blimp folder’ to Foot Locker: Fake jobs MLB players use to fool fans — This is a very entertaining read.