Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox series primer
April showers bring a need to recover in May.
After all the talk of continuity and pennant potential in spring training, after the Grapefruit League title and a 9-2 whipping of the Toronto Blue Jays to begin the season on March 31, April has been a stormy month for the Tampa Bay Rays. Pick the poison: Offensive woes, injuries to left-hander Matt Moore and right-hander Alex Cobb, a struggle to win away from Tropicana Field.
Overall, April has become a washout.
The good news: It’s almost over. An 11-15 record after play April 28 likely wasn’t what the Rays had in mind when they envisioned their first full month of play. Only the Seattle Mariners (10) and Houston Astros (nine) have fewer victories in the American League. Since April 13, the day Cobb was placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain, they are 4-10 and have won consecutive games just once in the stretch, when they beat the New York Yankees from April 18-19. Not much has gone right.
It’s easy to blame the starting pitching for the slide, but the struggle is collective. Yes, starters must go deeper, beginning with left-hander David Price and right-hander Chris Archer. But the Rays must receive more sustained production from their known commodities in the batter’s box, like Evan Longoria and Wil Myers. Myers, in particular, must show improved patience after hitting .211 with 26 strikeouts in April.
There’s little time to exhale with life in the AL East. The Rays travel to Fenway Park for the first time this season to play a three-game series against the defending World Series champions. Tampa Bay is 4-8 on the road, and those four victories are tied for second-fewest in the AL, better than only the Detroit Tigers’ three.
Here’s a closer look at the upcoming Rays-Red Sox series …
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
Ben Zobrist (Rays): He hit .367 (11 for 30) with two RBI and four walks in seven games from April 22-28. He has hit .317 with three home runs and eight RBI this season.
Mike Napoli (Red Sox): He hit .421 (8 for 19) with one home run and three RBI in five games from April 22-27. He has hit .304 with five home runs and 15 RBI this season.
Yunel Escobar (Rays): He hit .167 (4 for 24) with one RBI and six strikeouts in seven games from April 22-28. He has hit .217 with one home run and two RBI this season.
Grady Sizemore (Red Sox): He hit .133 (2 for 15) with two RBI and seven strikeouts in four games from April 22-27. He has hit .208 with two home runs and seven strikeouts this season.
36: Degrees at the start of the Rays’ 4-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field. It was the second-coldest game in franchise history, following a 33-degree game against Boston on April 17, 2003.
4: Errors committed by the Rays in the sixth inning of the White Sox’s 9-2 victory Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field. It was the first time in franchise history that Tampa Bay committed four errors in a single inning.
11: RBI allowed by the Rays against the White Sox’s Jose Abreu in the most recent four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. He produced three home runs against Tampa Bay pitching.
"It was cold. It was tough to get a grip on the ball. It was just about getting in and out quick, getting my defense off the field as quickly as possible. The only way I could do that was by throwing strikes, getting them to put the ball in play." — Left-hander Cesar Ramos, to reporters, after he allowed no runs, five hits and walked two in the Rays’ victory over the White Sox on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field with a first-pitch temperature of 36 degrees. Ramos, a stranger to frigid temperatures, was born in Los Angeles and attended Long Beach State.
"The defense in general this whole season has been spectacular. You can’t expect perfection. I talk about that all the time. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being present." — Manager Joe Maddon, to reporters, after the Rays committed four errors in the sixth inning during their loss Sunday to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Chicago scored five of its nine runs in the error-filled inning.
"It’s been a tough April. It’s tough when you start off this way. Nobody wants to struggle, but everyone’s going to struggle throughout the year. We’re struggling overall as a team." — Right-hander Jake Odorizzi, to reporters, after he allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings in a 7-3 loss to the White Sox on Monday at U.S. Cellular Field. He has lost his last three decisions after winning his season debut against the Texas Rangers on April 4.
May 2-4 — Rays at Yankees