Red Sox Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays & A Pivotal Series

The Red Sox proved they are a team that could contend for the AL East division after going 5-3 on their recent road trip and coming home to Fenway on a high, the task doesn’t get any easier for the hometown boys.  The nerds are coming!

In another themed road trip in honor of Ken Rosenthal’s bow tie, the Tampa Bay Rays will resemble a bunch of nerds invading Fenway Park this weekend. The Rays will occupy the visitor’s clubhouse for a three game series to be followed by the under achieving Detroit Tigers for a four game series starting Monday.  But let’s not look ahead and rather focus on the divisional opponent that lies ahead, giving the Sox a chance to make up more ground in the meat grinder known as the AL East.

The Rays enter Boston in second place with a record of 27-18 and only one-game behind the first place Baltimore Orioles (has a different ring to it doesn’t it). The Red Sox are an even .500 at 22-22 and have narrowed the gap to only 5.5 back of first and 4.5 of Tampa Bay.  Sure the Yankees and Blue Jays are in between them but the best way to control your own fate is to just keep winning.  And what an opportunity this series will present.

Friday night will see Jon Lester (3-3, 3.95 ERA) against the rookie and recent call up Alex Cobb (1-0, 2.57 ERA) who is making only his second start of the season.  Given Lester’s fine performances of late, the Red Sox could have the edge  but don’t be too quick to overlook this Cobb kid.  He gets high praise from everyone in the Tampa organization and is another example of how well they develop young pitching skill.

Saturday’s matchup is setting up to be a low-scoring pitcher’s duel that’ll Josh Beckett (4-4, 4.38 ERA) battle David Price (6-3, 2.38 ERA).  Beckett’s last two outings have been brilliant, going a combined 14.1 innings and only allowing one earned run.  This after the whole golf gate scandal that ripped through the Boston organization.

The Sunday finale favors the Rays in a big way and it’s two words or one name that give them the edge; Clay Buchholz.  The owner of the worse ERA in baseball, Buchholz (4-2, 7.84 ERA) is paired up against Jeremy Hellickson (4-1, 2.73 ERA) who beat Buchholz and the Red Sox nine days ago in a 2-1 game held at the Trop.  It was a promising outing from Buchholz only to go and throw a stink bomb in his next outing against the O’s giving up 6 hits and 5 earned runs over 5.1 IP.

The injury bug has bitten the Rays of late with some notable names occupying the MASH unit.  Names like Evan Longoria, Jeff Niemann, Desmond Jennings and Jeff Keppinger are scheduled to miss a significant amount of time joining the likes of closer Kyle Farnsworth and Sam Fuld who have been on the DL for quite some time.

Yet the Rays just keep winning and are doing it with some timely hitting and excellent pitching.  Lately it’s been the bat of B.J. Upton who’s in a modest 7-game winning streak and has managed to pull his batting average to .300 on the season.  He played hero in a walk-off fashion against Toronto on Wednesday and will look to torch the Red Sox this weekend.

As always we can’t forget our dear friend Luke Scott who will make his second trip to Fenway Park after calling it a dump and running down every Red Sox fan in the country.  Don’t expect a warm reception for Mr. Scott, the garbage man.

The Sox have taken four of six from the Rays so far this season which includes taking three of four at Fenway back in mid-April.  The Sox have outscored Tampa 37-17 including two monster offensive games that saw David Price and Hellickson get shelled.  Will history repeat itself in short time span?  It’s unlikely but I do think the Sox can take two of three if the bats can get to Price early, drive the pitch count up and get to the bullpen.


Tags: Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Jon Lester Josh Beckett Tampa Bay Rays

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