Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays series primer
Something must give. Something must budge, right? The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox enter their three-game series at Tropicana Field as preseason division favorites who have fallen on ill times.
For one team, somehow and some way, momentum will move in a better direction after Sunday.
Consider: The Rays lost four consecutive games before picking their nose off the canvas with a 5-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics in 11 innings Thursday. The Red Sox, meanwhile, are still planted facedown with their current fortunes as losers of seven consecutive games, the majors’ longest active skid.
The Rays’ problems are well-worn: Inconsistent starting pitching, an inconsistent bullpen (specifically closer Grant Balfour), sloppy defense, a punchless offense. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have fallen in a similar sink hole: They were outscored a combined 20-10 in the Toronto Blue Jays’ three-game sweep at Fenway Park from Tuesday to Thursday; in their previous series, from last Friday to Sunday, the Detroit Tigers tagged them a combined 13-3.
”We have not had that moment,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon, after Sean Rodriguez’s three-run, game-ending home run capped Thursday’s dramatics at Tropicana Field. ”We’ve had plenty of opportunities for that moment.
”I believe there’s more of those forthcoming. It was great for our guys to do that. We needed some kind of a boost all night.”
Will more arrive?
They must. The reward would be two-fold: Heal a bruised record and deliver more pain Boston’s way.
Here’s a look at the upcoming Rays-Red Sox series:
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox): He hit .450 (9 for 20) with two home runs and four RBI in six games from May 16-22. He earned at least two hits in three games in the span. He has hit .282 with three home runs and nine RBI this season.
Yunel Escobar (Rays): He hit .421 (8 for 19) with one home run and three RBI in six games from May 16-22. He had two multi-hit games in the span, including a 3-for-3 day with one RBI in a victory over the Los Angeles Angels on May 16. He has hit .265 with three home runs and 11 RBI this season.
David Ortiz (Red Sox): He hit .091 (2 for 22) with four strikeouts in six games from May 16-22. He enters the series without a hit in his last four games. He has hit .275 with 11 home runs and 25 RBI this season.
Wil Myers (Rays): He hit .091 (2 for 22) with seven strikeouts in six games from May 16-22. He went hitless in five games in the span. He has hit .238 with four home runs and 20 RBI this season.
2007: Year when the Rays were last eight games worse than .500 (they finished 66-96 that year). They reached a 19-27 record after a 3-0 loss to the Athletics on Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
11: Times that a team has allowed three or more runs on one hit or fewer in a loss, after the Rays achieved the feat with a 3-2 defeat to the Athletics on Wednesday at Tropicana Field. Before then, the most recent instance was July 20, 2013, when the Houston Astros lost to the Seattle Mariners.
2: Wins for the Rays at Tropicana Field in their last 11 tries, after a 5-2 victory over the Athletics in 11 innings Thursday. They are 9-14 there this season, which places them in a tie with the Mariners (9-10) and Baltimore Orioles (9-11) for fewest home victories in the American League.
”A pesky offense. They didn’t do too much to hurt me.” — Right-hander Jake Odorizzi after he allowed three runs, four hits and struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings in the Rays’ loss to the Athletics on Tuesday. He has a combined 26 strikeouts in his past three starts.
”It’s really one of the more unusual games to lose. We pitched extremely well. We had some fight at the very end.” — Maddon after the Rays’ loss to the Athletics on Wednesday. It marked their first loss in franchise history when allowing one hit or fewer.
”I felt good. Mentally, I didn’t feel like I was on the DL that long.” — Right-hander Alex Cobb after he allowed three hits and struck out six in 6 2/3 innings in the Rays’ victory over the Athletics on Thursday. He hadn’t pitched since being placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain April 13.
PROMOTIONS AND GIVEAWAYS
May 23 — Alex Cobb military-themed bobblehead
May 24 — District K-9 seating
May 25 — David Price & Astro dog tags
May 26-28 — Rays at Blue Jays