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Rays Series Preview: Shipping up to Boston

The Rays look for their first wins on the road at Fenway Park.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Mets
Martin Perez
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

A weekend is the only thing that has separated the Tampa Bay Rays from facing the Boston Red Sox. For the Rays that weekend involved a tension filled series against the New York Yankees that the Rays came out victorious in three of four games. While the Red Sox won two of three against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Rays have solidified themselves in the playoff chase moving into a tie with the Baltimore Orioles and the Chiciago White Sox for the sixth seed.

Matchups:

Monday 7:30 PM: Ryan Yarbrough vs Ryan Brasier
Tuesday 7:30 PM: TBA vs Martin Perez
Wednesday 7:30 PM: Blake Snell vs TBA
Thursday 4:30 PM: Tyler Glasnow vs Zack Godley

Last week the Rays matched up with the two remaining players from expected starters for Boston coming into the season. This week they only have to face one with Nathan Eovaldi pitching yesterday.

Tonight the Red Sox have announced their going with reliever Ryan Brasier as an opener for tonight’s game. Brasier has a 9.00 ERA in 4 innings, but has posted good FIP (2.47) and xFIP (3.84). Wednesday’s started hasn’t been announced, but it’s very likely to be another opener situation.

In between is a rematch with Martin Perez, who had a solid start scattering four hits and three walks over 5.0 scoreless innings last Wednesday against the Rays. Having to face the Rays in back to back starts should be an advantage to the Rays bats.

As for Thursday’s afternoon affair, Zack Godley has been solid after the Red Sox picked him up after being released just before the season began. In three games he’s thrown 11.1 innings with a 3.97 ERA, 4.38 FIP, and 4.02 xFIP.

The Red Sox bullpen has been worked hard — as should be expected for a team utilizing openers. The Red Sox are one of eight teams with at least 70 innings thrown by relievers. The results have been mixed with an overall 4.09 ERA, 4.01 FIP, and 3.85 xFIP.

By no means bad results, but more middle of the pack.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Zack Godley
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox Offense

As a group they have under performed expectations similarly to the Rays. They are hitting .236/.302/.413 and have put up a 98 wRC+ where the Rays sit at .208/.306/.365 with a 96 wRC+. The Rays have scored two more runs, but have played one more game so the Red Sox have scored slightly more runs per game.

Mitch Moreland has made a career of being a thorn in the Rays side. This year, though, it’s not only the Rays as he leads the Red Sox with six homers and a 251 wRC+. He is heavily platooned so with Ryan Yarbrough and Blake Snell scheduled to start this series he might see very limited opportunities. The Rays could also be sending out LHP Anthony Banda on Tuesday, depending on what is to come with the open slot in the rotation for Chirinos.

Then again, the Red Sox as a team have a 123 wRC+ this season against LHP (11th in baseball); they have an 83 wRC+ vs RHP (25th in baseball).

Among the offensive stars, the only one off to a quick start is Xander Bogaerts with a .319/.418/.574 and 177 wRC+. JD Martinez looked to get on track at Tropicana Field last week with several doubles, but only has hit .196/.274/.321 with a 62 wRC+ this season. Rafael Devers is hitting .175/.242/.351 with a 63 wRC+. Andrew Benintendi is really struggling hitting .056/.261/.083 18 wRC+.

The offense is much more top heavy than it has been in recent years without Mookie Betts, but the top of the lineup can still do damage when they’re on. Hopefully the Rays pitching staff delays that until at least the weekend when they face the Yankees starting Friday.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
Xander Bogaerts (2) is greeted by outfielder Alex Verdugo (99)
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

State of the Rays

The Rays aren’t playing up to their final form with the offense, pitching, and defense still under performing expectations. The defense has looked much sharper since returning home to Tropicana Field outside of the 2-run fly ball blunder yesterday afternoon by Manuel Margot.

Yonny Chirinos, Charlie Morton, and Oliver Drake going to the Injured List don’t help, and there are a few more questions than there were a week ago. Initial reports say Chirinos and Morton’s stints on the Injured List should be short. Cash says Brendan McKay is still unavailable, but cleared to workout in Port Charlotte, as he builds up after returning from a positive COVID-19 test.

The Rays still have available reserves, but it’s getting close to needing to bring up the big prospects not currently on the 40 man in Shane McClanahan, Joe Ryan, or Shane Baz, especially if Banda is not deemed ready for the show.

The Rays depth was their strength entering the season and they’ve needed to lean on it in the early going, having used and now cut C Kevan Smith and LHP Sean Gilmartin, who are currently free to sign with other teams.

Things feel a lot better when you win three of four against the Yankees as a fan watching at home. The Rays are better than they’ve shown, but it’s more important to be playing at their peak level when we get to the playoffs.

For the players, ti’s time to get the taste of that winless road trip out of their mouths. The Rays will seak their first win on the road as they look to keep the Red Sox at the bottom of the American League East standings.