What a difference a year makes. A season ago, the Boston Red Sox won the AL East in route to another World Series title while the Tampa Bay Rays were on the outside of the postseason picture looking in, several games out of a playoff berth. As the two teams get set for this weekend showdown, it’s the Sox on the outside while the Tampa Bay Rays remain in a heated three-way battle for one of two Wild Cars spots against Oakland and Cleveland. Can the Sox play spoilers, or will Tampa Bay keep pace over the weekend in the hunt for October?
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- Date and Time: Friday September 20, 2019, 7:10 p.m. ET through Sunday, September 23, 2019 at 1:10 p.m. ET
- Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
- 2019 MLB Betting Odds at Betcris: (Check Back Later)
- Red Sox vs. Rays 2019 MLB TV Coverage: Local Television Networks
The Rays are the leaders in the recent opener revolution, but with Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow back in the rotation, they’ve got themselves a much more orthodox starting staff now. With that, Glasnow, Charlie Morton and Ryan Yarbrough are the likely arms to eat the bulk of the innings in this three-game baseball series.
On the other side of this matchup, the Sox are expected to trot out Rick Porcello in the series opener with Nathan Eovaldi pitching the finale. Boston is likely to use an opener, maybe Bobby Poyner, in the middle game.
The series opener should feature the best pitching matchup with Morton and Porcello on the bump. Morton comes into the game with a 15-6 record along with a 3.16 ERA and 1.102 WHIP in his 182.1 innings of work.
The Rays rotation has suffered plenty of injuries, but Morton has been the constant for this team. He’s thrown 31 games and has an impressive 2.84 FIP indicating that, if anything, he’s outpitched his ERA.
Further, Morton comes into play with the Rays going 20-11 in his starts and having won each of his last three. He held the Angels to three runs in six innings in his last start and last faced the Red Sox back in July when he went just 4.2 innings allowing four runs. That, however, was in Boston. He held the Sox to two runs in seven frames the last time he faced them in Tropicana Field.
As for Porcello, he comes into this one with an inflated 5.77 ERA in 30 starts. He’s thrown 162.1 innings and has a league high 104 earned runs allowed. His 5.02 FIP and 1.441 WHIP are both also inflated.
Surprisingly, despite the ERA, Porcello is still 13-12 on the season thanks to some great run support. He’s also coming off an okay start against the Phillies, going five innings and allowing two runs to get the win, but prior to that had back-to-back clunkers with 12 combined runs in just eight innings of work. In his last start against the Rays, he went 5.2 innings and allowed six runs on nine hits, including three homer runs. He’s allowed a staggering 31 homers on the MLB season.
Unfortunately for the Sox, the rotation doesn’t get better for them after Game 1. With Chris Sale on the IL, David Price injured, and others like Andrew Cashner having major struggles Alex Cora has had to piece his rotation together, including using waiver pickups like Jhoulys Chacin and openers.
Boston will likely go with a pen game in the second game of the series, utilizing the expanded roster and huge slate of arms, though none really stand out.
In the series finale, Nathan Eovaldi gets the start. He was amazing for Boston last season, particularly in the playoffs, but he’s had an injury plagued season and hasn’t been very effective when he has taken the ball, going 1-0 with a 5.81 ERA split between the rotation and bullpen.
Eovaldi has a 5.69 FIP and 1.538 WHIP. Those numbers are a bit better on the road, but a bit worse as a starter where he’s made just nine starts with a 5.95 ERA and 11 homers allowed in 39.1 innings pitched.
On the other side of this matchup, the Rays wrap up the series with Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough. Glasnow will get the start while Yarbrough has pitched both as a starter and the long man after an opener.
Glasnow has made just 10 starts this season, having missed four months. He’s made two starts since returning from injury, allowing two runs in two innings against the Blue Jays and no runs in three frames against the Angels. He’ll have his pitch count limited again versus Boston but should be allowed throw at least 60 pitches as he works his way up.
Overall, Glasnow has been great. He’s 6-1 and the Rays are 8-2 when he gets the ball. He has a 2.03 ERA in his 53.1 innings.
As for Yarbrough, he’s 11-4 with a 3.78 ERA and 0.938 WHIP in 133.1 innings, embracing his unique role on the team. He’s got a 3.34 FIP and has started in seven straight appearances. He is coming off a tough outing against the Angels and may be tiring. He also struggled the last time he faced Boston, opening the door a bit for the Sox.
The Rays’ pitching advantage in this series extends to the bullpen where they boast the second-best bullpen ERA in baseball at 3.67. Boston’s bullpen ERA is 4.31.
Expanded rosters do give Alex Cora a few more options which is good given the likely bullpen game this series. Even so, there aren’t many reliable arms.
Brandon Workman has established himself as a top end reliever and worked his way into the closer’s role. He’s got a 9-1 record and 14 saves. He’s also posted a 2.04 ERA and 12.8 K:9 ratio. He, however, has struggled with command at times, having walked 41 in 66.1 innings.
Besides Workman, Marcus Walden has been good. Andrew Cashner has thrown well out of the pen in shorter stints. Matt Barnes and Josh Taylor have been pretty good lately, too.
For the Rays, there are a ton more options. Emilio Pagan has been a strong closer with a 2.12 ERA and a much better walk rate than Workman. In fact, he’s got a 6.77 K:BB ratio with 13 walks and 88 strikeouts in 63.2 innings.
Ahead of Pagan, Diego Castillo and Oliver Drake are fine options. Nick Anderson, meanwhile, is filthy. He’s got 32 strikeouts in 16.1 innings since he came over from Miami.
With such a mismatch on the mound, the Rays should win this series easily, but at the plate is where the Red Sox close the gap a bit.
Boston has scored the fourth most runs in baseball and boast an OPS of .811 compared to the Rays’ .759 mark.
Over his last 20 games, Mookie Betts—for one—has been red hot. He’s batting .345 in that span with a 1.063 OPS and seven home runs. J.D. Martinez has also belted seven bombs in the same span with 24 RBI and a .982 OPS.
Andrew Benintendi’s bat has gone cold over the last month, but the rest of the lineup is hitting well. Between Betts, Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers, the team has four players an OPS+ of 132 or higher. All four have also hit at least 28 home runs, providing some pop.
There are several .300 hitters in the Sox’s lineup as well along with some excellent OBP numbers to boot.
The Rays don’t have quite as many gaudy individual numbers. Austin Meadows is having a great year with 31 home runs and a .920 OPS, but otherwise this is just a very deep team with a lot of good players and a manager well adept at putting his players in a position to succeed.
From Ji-Man Choi to Tommy Pham to Nate Lowe to Avisail Garcia and so many more, there are a lot of players putting up good numbers, making this a tough lineup to navigate. Of late, Meadows, Pham and Choi have been raking.
Boston has played .500 baseball since the start of August and have lost five of their last six games against AL East opponents.
The Sox are one of few teams playing better baseball on the road this season which helps in this series at Tropicana Field. It also helps that they’re 5-1 this season against the Rays in Tropicana Field though they’re just 6-9 in overall in the season series.
Like the Red Sox, the Rays have a better road record than at home, but not by much. Tampa Bay still has a strong .571 winning percentage at home this season. The Rays are also 13-4 in their last 17 games. They’ve gone on a bit of a run of late trying to secure home field advantage in the Wild Card game.
Perhaps the biggest note of late: the Rays are playing for something and the Red Sox are not.
With the Indians and Athletics pushing Tampa Bay in the race for the AL Wild Card, the Rays still have plenty on the line and will play with the necessary urgency in this series. For Boston, the urgency is gone as they figure to be eliminated from playoff contention this weekend if not before.
The pitching matchups skew this series heavily in favor of the home team, even with Boston having played better baseball on the road all year.
The Sox should still steal a game in this one but look for the Rays to walk away with the series win. The offense is good enough most nights and the pitching gives them the advantage.
Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays Series Pick: Tampa Bay has more riding on this series as they remain in the race for October, take the motivated Rays to win the series at home.
Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays Series Prediction: Rays take two of three from the Red Sox in St. Petersburg