That short road trip was one to forget for the Tampa Bay Rays. Not all was bad in the two losses to the Washington Nationals, but there wasn’t a lot good. Charlie Morton threw 5.0 innings and the stuff looked back to normal, so that’s the best news and honestly something the Rays would probably trade the two losses for if they had to.
The Rays still hold the best record in the American League. The biggest change in the standings is that after the Toronto Blue Jays won two out of three they now are 2.0 games up on the Yankees for second in the American League East.
The most important thing for the Rays moving forward is getting pitchers healthy which should see the return of Oliver Drake this weekend.
You don’t want to peak too early, but you do want to see some of the bats like Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe get back to hitting the ball well, and facing the Boston Red Sox pitching staff might be the best remedy.
Thursday 6:40 PM: Mike Kickham vs Josh Fleming
Friday 6:40 PM TBA vs Blake Snell
Saturday 6:40 PM: TBA vs Tyler Glasnow
Sunday 1:10 PM: Martin Perez vs Charlie Morton
Things get started with a pitching matchup with limited Major League experience. Mike Kickham threw 30.1 innings for the San Francisco Giants in 2013-14 and didn’t make his return to the majors until this year. He’s the guy pitctured above and has allowed three runs in 5.0 innings while striking out four and walking two. He’s a crafty lefty that throws a fastball that sits around 90 mph, a cutter in the mid 80s, and a curveball in the upper 70s.
The Red Sox rotation has been ravaged by injuries and trades. The only healthy starter from last year’s rotation to start the year, Nathan Eovaldi, landed on the Injured List with a right calf strain. It is possible Eovaldi could return this weekend for one of the TBA spots.
If Eovaldi is able to return this weekend he’ll look to continue on a season that is far better than his disastrous 2019 season. So far in six starts and 34.1 innings he’s posted a 4.98 ERA/4.61 FIP/3.84 xFIP. He’s been burnt by the longball (seven homers) which has been a problem the last two years. For a guy who can throw 100 he still puts up solid yet disappointing strikeout numbers (22.8%), and this year he hasn’t hurt himself with a 4.1% walk rate. Earlier this year the Rays put up four runs against Eovaldi in 5.0 innings.
Martin Perez has a fine 4.40 ERA, but the peripherals haven’t been good. He has a 15.7% strikeout rate and 12.2% walk rate. Those aren’t the recipes for success as shown by his 5.18 FIP and 5.64 xFIP. The Rays didn’t fair that well against him in two previous starts. In 10.2 innings he’s allowed two runs with nine strikeouts, but the Rays did draw five walks.
After Fleming takes the mound tonight the Rays will throw their big three against the Red Sox this weekend. Snell, Glasnow, and Morton are who the Rays need to be at their best when we reach the playoffs and all focus should be on whether that’s moving in the right direction.
No more Mitch Moreland
Long time Rays killer Mitch Moreland was traded to the San Diego Padres. He was by far the most productive Red Sox hitter putting up a .328/.430/.746 204 wRC+ line this year. It feels like most of that damage was against the Rays.
For all the blame for trading Mookie Betts at least the Red Sox got Alex Verdugo. He’s been the team’s best player hitting .311/.370/.523 136 wRC+ while putting up 1.5 fWAR this year.
Xander Bogaerts (127 wRC+) and Rafael Devers (116 wRC+) have been good; JD Martinez (81 wRC+) has been very disappointing.
Bobby Dalbec was called up recently and has been on fire since his debut hitting .250/.314/.719 162 wRC+ including five homers in 35 plate appearances. He might do some damage this weekend.
The Red Sox have the worst record in the American League.
When it comes to wins and losses the Red Sox season has been a failure. Their 15-29 record is the worst in the American League.
It started with traded Mookie Betts as he approached free agency. David Price was included in the Betts trade. Chris Sale ended up going down with Tommy John surgery before the end of Spring Training 1.0. Eduardo Rodriguez had a severe case of COVID-19 and is out for the season due to heart inflammation.
The pitching has been a disaster. They’ve been hit hard by injuries, but really lacked any depth to handle it.
The offense has been fine, but the expectation was Bogaerts, Devers, and Martinez should still put runs on the board. They haven’t been great, but they still are capable of putting runs on the board and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The Rays have 2.5 weeks remaining in the season and while winning isn’t their sole focus you don’t want to see things spiral out of control as you’re reaching the playoffs. These games still matter. Sure, not as much as they could have, but you still want to see good effort and good process even if the results aren’t coming through.