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Series Preview: Rays vs. Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Summer Workouts Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays won a series against the Minnesota Twins while their division rivals didn’t gain ground. With 25 games left the Rays have put themselves where they want to be. Now they take on the Boston Red Sox.

The Rays hold a 7.5 game advantage over the New York Yankees and are 8.0 games up on the Red Sox. The Toronto Blue Jays remain on the fringe of the Wild Card race 12.0 games behind the Rays, but time is running out. The Baltimore Orioles are 42.0 games behind.


Monday 1:10 PM: Chris Sale vs Ryan Yarbrough
Tuesday 7:10 PM: Eduardo Rodriguez vs Drew Rasmussen
Wednesday 7:10 PM: Nathan Eovaldi vs Shane McClanahan

A battle of the Lakeland boys for Labor Day with Chris Sale facing off against Ryan Yarbrough. Sale has been everything the Red Sox have needed as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. He’s put up a 2.53 ERA/4.48 FIP/3.29 xFIP in 21.1 innings. He’s posted a 27.9% strikeout rate and 5.8% walk rate. The only real problem has been homers. He’s allowed four and a 26.7% HR/FB rate in his tiny sample. Sale is down a couple ticks from where he sat before surgery. He’s working off a 93.5 mph four-seam fastball as his primary pitch coming in just over half the time. He splits the remaining pitch usage equally between a 78.5 mph slider and 86.6 mph changeup.

Eduardo Rodriguez has had a bad year by ERA despite good peripherals. In 132.2 innings he’s put up a 4.88 ERA/3.41 FIP/3.44 xFIP. He’s posted a 27.5% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate. The major problem has been a .354 BABIP and 67.8% left-on-base rate. In his last start he held the Rays scoreless over 6.0 innings. Rodriguez works off a 92.6 mph four-seam fastball and will mix in a 92.8 mph sinker for his fastball offerings. Against right handed batters he leans on a 85.5 mph changeup and 88.4 mph cutter. Against left handed batters he ramps up his sinker usage and mostly plays off the two fastballs.

Former Ray Nathan Eovaldi has had a solid season putting up a 3.73 ERA/2.92 FIP/3.52 xFIP. He’s posting a solid 24.9% strikeout rate, and limiting walks with a 4.3% walk rate. Eovaldi has gotten the best of the Rays twice this year with one run outings, but the Rays got to him for six runs in his third start. Eovaldi works off a 96.9 mph four-seam fastball. He doesn’t have a preference for secondary pitch as he throws a 78.5 mph curveball, 85.9 mph slider, 92.5 mph cutter, and 88.0 mph split finger changeup equally. Left handed batters can disregard the slider and right handers can discount the cutter.

The Red Sox have a top five offense.

The Red Sox have put up a .260/.327/.446 line and are averaging 5.03 runs per game.

Xander Bogaerts is still on the COVID-IL after being removed in the middle of a game against the Rays last week.

Rafael Devers (134 wRC+) and JD Martinez (129 wRC+) are the main threats Rays pitching need to be most careful of.

Hunter Renfroe (116 wRC+) and Alex Verdugo (112 wRC+) provide solid support.

Kyle Schwarber was a delayed addition at the trade deadline, but in his first 89 plate appearances he’s hit .319/.449/.569 and put up a 179 wRC+.

Defensively the Red Sox are either just below average at -7 DRS or just outside the top ten with +6.8 UZR. Their 93 errors rank third highest in the majors.

Oh, and look who is leading off today for the Red Sox. Taylor Motter has gotten another chance.

The Rays and Red Sox have become familiar foes since the All-Star break.

Over the past six weeks the Rays and Red Sox have faced off ten times with the Rays coming out ahead with a 7-3 record to take a 9-7 lead in the season series. If the Red Sox sweep they will have the head to head tie breaker. Otherwise the advantage will go to the Rays. But we hope it doesn’t come to that.