BOSTON — As if facing the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner in the series opener Friday wasn’t enough, Tampa Bay will have to contend with another Cy Young-caliber arm in Chris Sale on Saturday.
Sale takes the ball for the Red Sox (18-17) against the Rays (18-20) for the second of a three-game set at Fenway Park after Tampa Bay got to Boston’s Rick Porcello for five runs (three earned) in Friday’s 5-4 win.
“Over-under (on our strikeout total)? I’m not going there,” Rays manager Kevin Cash joked. “Hopefully we have a good game — and it’s cloudy, no shadows.”
Saturday’s first pitch was moved up six hours to 1:05 p.m. ET to account for expected sustained periods of rain. Rain is also expected for Sunday afternoon’s series finale on Mother’s Day.
“We’d like to avoid a doubleheader … so I’m glad that they (moved Saturday’s game up),” Cash said.
Despite the loss on Friday, the Red Sox have plated 47 runs in their last six games (7.8 per game). But the team is only 3-3 in that stretch.
“There’s been a major step forward,” Boston manager John Farrell said of his team’s offense. “We can still improve, there’s no question.”
As for Sale, he doesn’t need much improvement.
Sale (3-2, 1.92 ERA) is coming off a four-run outing in his start last Sunday against the Minnesota Twins. He gave up four hits and walked three while fanning 10 in a six-inning victory.
It was Sale’s sixth consecutive start with at least 10 strikeouts, leaving him two shy of the major league-record streak he shares with former Boston great Pedro Martinez.
The five-time All-Star southpaw is 5-4 with a 3.48 ERA in 11 outings (nine starts) against the Rays.
In his first start with Boston against Tampa Bay on April 15, Sale allowed a run on three hits and three walks with 12 punch outs en route to a seven-inning victory.
Evan Longoria has driven in two runs against Sale, but is just 2-for-24 lifetime against him. Curt Casali (2-for-6) is the only Rays player with a home run — a solo blast — off Sale.
Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell (0-3, 3.96 ERA) is stuck in a five-inning rut of late. He has gone exactly five frames in each of his last five starts and has made it past the sixth only once this season.
“Sounds like that’s becoming the hurdle that we’ve got to find a way to get over,” Cash said about Snell. “… Blake felt really good about his work in the bullpen and hopefully it’s something that he can carry over.”
The 24-year-old southpaw allowed four runs on a season-high 10 hits and a walk while striking out two in a loss to the Kansas City Royals last Sunday.
Snell is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three career starts against the Red Sox and 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA in one start at Fenway Park.
He lost to Boston back on April 17, coughing up four runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks while fanning five over five frames.
Andrew Benintendi has three hits and three RBIs in four at-bats against Snell. Hanley Ramirez (2-for-6), Mookie Betts (1-for-8) and Chris Young (1-for-3) each have an RBI off of Snell.
Ramirez is expected to return for the Red Sox after missing the last two games recovering from a right trapezius strain he suffered in Milwaukee.
The Rays could get right fielder Steven Souza Jr. back after he missed four straight games with a bruised right thumb.