Rays-Red Sox Preview
David Ortiz is sure to receive quite an ovation when the Boston Red Sox begin their final homestand of the season.
The newest member of the 500 home run club returns to Fenway Park for the first time since achieving the feat as the Red Sox open a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ortiz hit career homers No. 499, 500 and 501 during a 5-4 road trip which Boston (71-77) finished with two straight wins against AL East-leading Toronto. Rich Hill struck out 10 in seven innings for his first win since July 2013 in Sunday’s finale, while Jackie Bradley Jr. snapped a tie in the eighth with a sacrifice fly in the 4-3 victory.
Ortiz is 9 for 23 with two homers off Chris Archer (12-12, 2.95 ERA), who’s had trouble with several Boston hitters while struggling to find success in the series.
Archer is 1-6 with a 5.47 ERA in 10 career meetings with the Red Sox and owns a 7.71 ERA in two at Fenway. Two of those losses came in three starts at Tropicana Field this season.
Xander Bogaerts is 4 for 6 against Archer in 2015 and Pablo Sandoval 3 for 7 with a homer, though the Tampa ace has handled Dustin Pedroia (3 for 18) and Brock Holt (3 for 17) well over his career.
Archer has had a difficult September as well, dropping to 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA in three starts despite fanning seven and allowing two runs over six innings in Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat to the New York Yankees.
Tampa Bay (72-77) does come in with momentum after rallying for a 7-6 win Sunday against Baltimore to split a four-game set. Brandon Guyer tied it with a leadoff homer in the ninth before Evan Longoria tripled and scored on Kevin Kiermaier’s two-out single.
The Rays entered the game 1-62 when trailing after eight innings.
"That’s my first walk-off hit in the big leagues and it couldn’t have come at a better time," Kiermaier told MLB’s official website. "Credit to all our hitters before me with all those great at-bats."
Longoria finished 3 for 5 after going 2 for 28 over his previous seven games, with Logan Forsythe and Kiermaier also breaking out of slumps. Forsythe ended a 4-for-25 stretch with two hits, including a three-run homer, while Kiermaier was 1 for 15 in five games before a two-hit effort.
Mikie Mahtook had five hits in Friday’s 8-6 win and is batting .405 since Sept. 6.
The Rays collected 14 hits Sunday but may have a tougher time against Eduardo Rodriguez (9-6, 3.94), who’s 5-0 with a 2.19 ERA in eight home starts since losing to Baltimore on June 25.
Rodriguez has posted a 1.72 ERA in his last five overall starts and won three straight decisions prior to a 2-0 defeat Tuesday against the Orioles in which the rookie fanned a career-high nine and allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings.
"He’s gonna be great," Ortiz told MLB’s official website. "He’s a kid that works really hard to keep on learning about pitching. I think he has a great future. He has explosive stuff. He has learned pretty much how to locate pitches better."
Rodriguez, who’s slated to make one more start after this one and has already logged a career-high 158 innings, permitted three runs across five innings in his lone outing against the Rays on July 31 at Fenway Park.