Preview: Chris Archer back on mound as Rays open series vs. Red Sox
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET
BOSTON — Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer left his last start after two batters because of tightness in the back of his right arm.
Archer is not going to miss a start, but he has more to worry about than just his physical condition when he faces the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park on Friday night.
He is 2-11 with a 5.06 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox — 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA at Fenway — as he and his teammates try to keep the Rays in the hunt for an American League wild card spot.
Archer faces Drew Pomeranz, who saw his eight-decision winning streak snapped his last time out.
The Tampa players can be forgiven if their minds are on more than just these three games — with Hurricane Irma ready to blast the state of Florida.
“It’s all over national news right now, so we’d be lying if we said we weren’t thinking about it,” Kevin Kiermaier said. “But at the same time, we’re not going to let that affect right now what we have going on the field, especially with our opposition through the end of our season. … We have our work cut out for us, but we’ve just got to keep our focus.”
The Rays, idle Thursday, began the day three games out of a wild card but have four teams ahead of them and are a game under .500 for the season.
The Red Sox lost the opener of their series with the last-place Toronto Blue Jays and were down to their final swings when they tied the game en route to a 19-inning victory Tuesday night. They then cruised to victory Wednesday.
“I think we came out with good energy,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Wednesday’s game moved his team to 12-4 on the season against Toronto. “When we run the bases and have success like that, I think there’s energy we draw from that and I think it gives that guy on the mound, the opposition, a lot more to contend with.”
The Red Sox swiped four bases in as many tries against the woeful-throwing Miguel Montero and are 24-1 this season when stealing multiple bases.
The comeback win Tuesday and win Wednesday, coinciding with the New York Yankees blowing a 6-1 lead and losing Tuesday, left the Red Sox four games ahead of New York atop the American League East. Wednesday, the Yankees won 9-1 in Baltimore to bring their deficit back to 3 1/2 games.
Pomeranz is 14-5 with a 3.36 ERA on the season, 11-2 with a 2.78 in his last 20 starts. He is 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA in eight career appearances.
Tampa Bay players not named Brad Miller haven’t had much success against Pomeranz. Miller is 9-for-18 lifetime against the left-hander, but Adeiny Hechavarria is 0-for-7; Evan Longoria 2-for-14 (.143); Steven Souza Jr. and Kiermaier 2-for-11 (.182); Corey Dickerson 3-for-15 (.200) and Logan Morrison 2-for-9 (.222).
Mookie Betts has punished Archer to the tune of 11-for-29 (.379) with three homers and seven RBIs, while Hanley Ramirez is 7-for-20 (.350) and Rajai Davis is 3-for-10 (.300). On the flip side, Sandy Leon is 0-for-5, fellow catcher Christian Vazquez 1-for-13 (.077), Jackie Bradley Jr. 5-for-26 (.192) and Eduardo Nunez and Mitch Moreland 2-for-9 (.222).
The Red Sox lead the season series 7-6 (4-3 in Boston) as the teams get set to play two straight weekends against each other.