Rays-Red Sox preview
BOSTON -- Drew Smyly has a chance to break a team record Wednesday when he closes the Tampa Bay Rays' three-game series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The left-hander, who faces Steven Wright as he tries to help his team win the three-game series in the rubber game, has thrown 20 1/3 straight scoreless innings -- eight this season -- against the Red Sox. The Rays' record is the 25 1/3 straight spun by Matt Garza against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008.
Smyly, who pitched eight innings of one-hit ball with 11 strikeouts against Boston in April, comes into this start 6-11 on the season. But he is 4-0 with a 2.82 ERA in his last seven, lowering his season ERA from 5.64 to 4.80, and going at least six innings in all seven starts.
Smyly shook off a shaky first inning that saw him throw 34 pitches, and needed only 55 more to get through the next five in his last start, a no-decision against the Houston Astros.
"I guess I was just nibbling a little bit in the first couple of innings," Smyly said after that game. "Just missing. Got behind in the count. Made it hard on myself. But I was happy to get out of the first with just two runs. My pitch count was up, so in my head I was just thinking attack, go right at them and see how long you can last."
The last-place Rays lost that game.
Smyly is 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA in nine games -- seven starts -- against the Red Sox lifetime, 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA in four appearances at Fenway.
Only two of Boston's better hitters have done well against Smyly -- David Ortiz 5-for-14 and Mookie Betts 5-for-15. Dustin Pedroia is 2-for-16, Xander Bogaerts 3-for-15, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Travis Shaw both 1-for-9 and Brock Holt 1-for-7.
Wright makes his second start since coming back from a shoulder injury suffered diving back into second base as a pinch runner in Los Angeles, gave up five runs on seven hits, walking three and striking out one, against the Kansas City Royals in his return last Friday night.
He struggled with his delivery early in that game but was, like Smyly, better as the game went on.
"It was fair to say that the first inning or two ... he was trying to establish a release point after some down time," manager John Farrell said before Tuesday night's game. "He really settled in after that and was, I think, very sharp the final four innings, with the normal action and violence to his knuckleball."
Wright, one of the pleasant surprises that have helped the Red Sox back into contention after another last-place finish, is 13-6 with a 3.18 ERA -- 9-2, 3.62 in his last 14 starts.
This will be the first time he's faced the Rays, but comes in 6-3 with a 1.89 ERA in nine career starts against the American League East.