Unfortunately the Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t complete the sweep of the New York Yankees, but they were able to win the series. The Rays have pulled within 4.0 games of the Yankees and the head-to-head tie breaker is still alive.
The Seattle Mariners have taken hold of the first wild card spot with a seven game winning streak. The Mariners are 1.0 game ahead of the Rays and 2.0 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Baltimore Orioles are 2.5 games out of a playoff spot (3.5 games behind the Rays) while the Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins are tied for the American League Central (6.0 games behind the Rays).
It would take a near miracle run for the Boston Red Sox to make the playoffs. They’ve won five in a row but that still puts them 7.0 games out of the playoffs and 8.0 games behind the Rays. They are looking an uphill battle bigger than the lead they blew in September 2011. They need to close a gap almost as big while passing multiple teams. They aren’t dead yet, but the Rays could help dig a hole too big for them to overcome with a series victory. One win in the final six would give the Rays the head-to-head tiebreak.
Monday 4:10 PM: Luis Patino vs Michael Wacha
Tuesday 6:40 PM: Drew Rasmussen vs Rich Hill
Wednesday 6:40 PM: Jeffrey Springs vs TBA
Michael Wacha is having the season the Rays hoped he would have last year. Over 95.0 innings he’s posted a 2.56 ERA/3.80 FIP/3.96 xFIP. He is better by about a half run by FIP in 2022, but the biggest difference is the nearly 2.50 ERA disparity. His strikeout rate is down to 20.1% while his walk rate is up to 6.9%. Not the combination you look for to get better results. The biggest difference is his LOB% going from 69.7% to 82.6%. Wacha throws a 93.2 mh four-seam fastball, 84.8 mh changeup, and 89.0 mph cutter as his three main pitches. He will occasionally throw a 74.9 mph curveball. The changeup is his best pitch and has gotten a 33.5% whiff rate this season. This leads to a significant reverse platoon split for his career and the Rays will throw out a stacked right handed lineup to try to avoid the changeup. He still throws the changeup against right handed batters but at a much lower frequency.
Rich Hill is coming off a great start against the Rays a week and a half ago. He struck out 11 batters over 7.0 scoreless innings. He’s been a solid performer for Boston when healthy. He’s put up a 4.52 ERA/4.04 FIP/4.22 xFIP over 93.2 innings. The Red Sox have generally protected him from the third time through the order, so I’d expect more of the same unless he is able to duplicate his last start against the Rays. Hill throws a 71.9 mph curveball as his most frequently used pitch. He will add a 88.4 mph four-seam fastball and 84.4 mph cutter to round out his repertoire. Against left handed batters he will replace most of his curves with a 69.3 mph slider. Against right handers he will occasionally throw a 82.2 mph changeup.
The Red Sox have one of the most top heavy offenses.
The Red Sox have hit .260/.320/.412 and put up a 103 wRC+. They don’t hit the ball out of the park that frequently but do get on base. They are an aggressive team at the plate that takes advantage of a ballpark that inflates BABIP to acheive this level of OBP.
Xander Bogaerts (140 wRC+) and Rafael Devers (141 wRC+) lead the way offensively.
JD Martinez (115 wRC+) hasn’t been the impact bat that the Red Sox have become accustomed to, but he’s still been an effective bat.
Trevor Story (105 wRC+), Alex Verdugo (103 wRC+), and Christian Arroyo (106 wRC+) have been solid hitters.
Tommy Pham (114 wRC+ with Boston) has been a solid pickup for the Red Sox at the trade deadline.
Rob Refsnyder (152 wRC+) has had an impressive small sample size performance. He’s running an elevated BABIP but has hit well over 138 plate appearances.
Yesterday the Red Sox added one of their top prospects in Triston Casas. He went 1-for-4 in his major league debut.