ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox will try to inch closer to an American League East title when they send 2016 AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello to the mound on Saturday in the middle of a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Porcello (9-17, 4.64 ERA) has had a season to forget for the most part and has lost three of his last four starts after enjoying a four-game win streak in August.
Some of Porcello’s struggles can actually be tied to the Rays. In 2016, the right-hander was 5-0 in six starts against the Rays with a 3.07 ERA.
This year, Porcello is 1-4 with a 4.91 ERA in five starts. His last start was Sept. 10 against the Rays and Porcello gave up two runs and five hits in five innings in the loss.
“My outlook is to go out there and help us win a ballgame and it’s always been that,” Porcello said the Boston Herald. “It’s a grind for everybody, not just for me. It’s a long season.”
For his career, Porcello is 11-8 with a 3.41 ERA in 22 starts against the Rays.
The Red Sox will likely be without Hanley Ramirez in the lineup on Saturday after he has missed the past two games with soreness in his left shoulder and biceps. He had an MRI on Friday that showed nothing conclusive.
“(Ramirez) just feels like he can’t trigger,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “It’s the left shoulder, so as he gets to the point of contact, it’s, as he describes it, not feeling like he can fire through as he typically does.”
The Rays will counter with right hander Alex Cobb (11-9, 3.59), who won his last start against the Red Sox on Sept. 10 when he gave up a run and four hits and had five strikeouts in five innings. Cobb has won his last two starts and is has traditionally had success against Boston, going 6-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 career starts.
Tampa Bay (72-76) is still 5 1/2 games back in the race for the second wild-card spot in the American League, but time is running out, especially after tough losses like Friday when the Rays blew a 5-2 in the ninth and lost 13-6 in 15 innings.
“Anytime you’re up 5-2 going into the ninth with Alex, who I think is leading in saves, you feel good,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Obviously, teams can come back, as we saw … but tough loss.”