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Rays Series Preview: Time to put Boston to bed

The Red Sox are last in the division. Let’s keep them there.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox
Michael Wacha is one of Boston’s better pitchers this year
Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays took care of business against the Los Angeles Angels in a four game sweep that has expanded their playoff lead. Now the Rays head to Boston for a three game set against the Red Sox.

The Rays hold the top wild card spot with a 0.5 game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays and 1.5 games over the Seattle Mariners if the season ended today. They hold a 4.0 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles, 6.5 games over the Minnesota Twins, 6.5 games over the Chicago White Sox, and 9.5 games over the Boston Red Sox.

The Rays have won their last 6 and 11 of their last 13. The Red Sox are coming into the series losing their last 4 and 6 of their last 7. The Rays will look to continue their domination against the Red Sox. The Rays have gone 8-2 against the Red Sox in 2022.

Schedule

Friday 7:10 PM: JT Chargois (Ryan Yarbrough as bulk) vs Michael Wacha
Saturday 4:10 PM: Jeffrey Springs vs Rich Hill
Sunday 1:35 PM: Corey Kluber vs Nick Pivetta

Friday night’s game will be shown exclusively on AppleTV+. The game will not be available on Bally Sports Sun, Bally Sports app, or MLB.tv.

Michael Wacha is having the season the Rays hoped he would have had last year. He’s putting up a 2.28 ERA/3.61 FIP/4.06 xFIP over 83.0 innings. His strikeout rate is down to 19.1% while his walk rate is up to 7.3%. This is in line with his career numbers. Wacha throws a 93.3 mph four-seam fastball, 84.9 mph changuep, and 89.0 mph cutter. He will occasionally add a 75.1 mph curveball. His changeup is his go to putaway pitch that he is willing to throw to both right and left handed batters.

When the Red Sox went for both free agent pitchers the Rays signed in the winter of 2020 Rich Hill has not gotten the results they have hoped for. He’s posted a 4.68 ERA/4.31 FIP/4.33 xFIP over 82.2 innings. His strikeout rate has fallen to 8.0% but he’s avoided too many walks with a 6.9% walk rate. Hill is primarily a two-pitch pitcher. Against right handed batters he throws a 88.4 mph four-seam fastball and 71.9 mph curveball. Against left handers he mixes in a 69.2 mph slider which is mostly just his curveball but at a different arm angle that gets more sweep.

2022 Little League Classic: Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles
Rich Hill

Nick Pivetta is the only starter that has managed to stay healthy enough to throw 100 innings for the Red Sox. He’s posted a 4.24 ERA/4.00 FIP/4.12 xFIP over 142.1 innings. Pivetta has a 23.1% strikeout rate and 8.5% walk rate. Pivetta throws a 93.3 mph four-seam fastball, 77.2 mph curveball, and 85.6 mph slider. He will infrequently mix in a 87.1 mph changeup mostly against left handed batters.

The Red Sox have had a middling offense.

As a team the Red Sox have hit .255/.315/.406 and put up a 100 wRC+. They don’t hit for a lot of power (.151 ISO and 116 homers) while also running the bases poorly. Their 42 stolen bases and -6.8 BaseRuns come in at the sixth worst in the majors.

Rafael Devers is the hitter that is the primary focus of opposing teams. He has hit .300/.357/.554 and put up a 150 wRC+. He leads the team with 25 homers despite playing through a back injury for most of the second half of the season.

Xander Bogaerts (129 wRC+) is the second most dangerous hitter in the lineup but has struggled in the second half. JD Martinez (117 wRC+) has been one of the three main bats in the lineup everyday but has had difficulty in the second half with a 47 wRC+ where his power has evaporated. Former Rays Rob Refsnyder (147 wRC+) and Christian Arroyo (112 wRC+) have played well in part time roles as well.

Alex Verdugo (99 wRC+), Trevor Story (93 wRC+), and Tommy Pham (93 wRC+) completes their collection of everyday players. Enrique Hernandez (67 wRC+) just returned from a long stay on the injured list but seems to have used all his magic in the playoffs last year.