Red Sox face David Price as Rays head to Fenway for three-game set


You saw what happened last weekend. You were embarrassed.

On Friday, John Lackey‘s great effort was wasted by an anemic Red Sox offense and some dude named Cole Figueroa walked off with the win for the Rays. Saturday, the Sox struck for five runs in the first inning against David Price, then proceeded to get two hits over the next 14 frames as the Rays clawed back and walked off again in 15 innings. On Sunday, the Rays took the series sweep and sent Boston to their tenth straight loss in a game where feelings got hurt and the benches emptied.

The Red Sox welcome the Rays back to Fenway for a three-game set this weekend. And while Tampa has had Boston’s number so far this season, they’re coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays that has stranded them in the AL East basement. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are showing signs of life following a four-game sweep in a home-and-home series against the Atlanta Braves.

BSI: The Rays swept the Red Sox last weekend but are coming off some broomstick treatment of their own at the hands of the red-hot Blue Jays. Tampa is now nine games out of first place — I fully expected them to contend for the AL East crown back in March. There are lots of fingers to point, but is there any way this team can climb back in it?

RCG: With (The Rays) being nine games out of place, it is going to be a tall task if they want to have any chance of getting in the playoffs. That being said, this team still has the potential that caused many people to choose them as World Series favorites heading into the season. Wil Myers, Evan Longoria, and Ben Zobrist are all better hitters than they have shown this year. On the pitching side, David Price, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi have not pitched up to expectations, but all three should be better going forward. The Rays will be better than a .500 team by season’s end, but making the playoffs after their poor first third of the season is going to be tough.

BSI: The series last weekend was hotly contested, with two walk-offs (including a Rays comeback from a five-run deficit) and a third game where the the dugouts unloaded. It seems the Rays and Red Sox always have tough matchups and the teams just don’t like each other. Do Rays fans similarly have an intense dislike for the Boston Red Sox?

RCG: It isn’t really a dislike, more of a “darn, we have to play these guys again?” For the most part in the last five or sox years, both teams have competed year-in and year-out for the AL East crown. Because of that, every time they play, the games are important, and when that happens the rivalry can get heated when there is so much on the line.

BSI: The “baseball codes” have come up more than a few times in meetings between these two teams (for instance, David Price’s girlfriend going on Twitter to admonish David Ortiz for admiring a home run off her man). What’s your take on Escobar’s steal last weekend and the Red Sox (over)reaction?

RCG: Escobar might have broken one of the “unwritten rules” of baseball by swiping that base. But, with the way the Rays have struggled to win this year, Escobar saw an opportunity to do just a little bit more to ensure the Rays won the game and he took it. It is hard to blame him for doing that. I understand the Red Sox reaction, especially because they too have struggled so far this year. In the end, it was a result of two teams full of competitive players that got caught up in the moment. I don’t expect there to be any lingering hatred between the teams because of this incident.

BSI: David Price goes in the first game on Friday, while Jake Odorizzi and Erik Bedard head to the hill on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Why hasn’t Price been sharp this year? And with all the pitching injuries, do you think the Rays will have to look elsewhere for help?

RCG: Price’s struggles have stemmed from him throwing too many hittable pitches. In the past, his stuff has been good enough where he could throw pitches in the zone to avoid walks but still not get hit hard. This season, the velocity on his pitches has been lower than in the past, and thus he has been more hittable. He needs to adjust his mentality and not be afraid to give up a few extra walks if it means that he is going to give up fewer hits.

As far as going outside the organization to get more pitching, that isn’t going to happen. The Rays don’t have the payroll to accommodate more pitching, and they won’t give up the prospects necessary to trade for a pitcher. Erik Bedard has filled in admirably, and with Alex Cobb‘s recent return and Jeremy Hellickson‘s impending return, the rotation should be just fine. If they do suffer another injury, both Nate Karns and Mike Montgomery have been throwing the ball well in Triple-A lately.

As mentioned, the Rays have lined up Price (4-4, 4.42), Odorizzi (2-4, 4.56) and Bedard (2-3, 4.10) in the series. The Red Sox are expected to counter with Brandon Workman (0-0, 3.18), Rubby De La Rosa (making his first big league start) and Jon Lester (5-6, 3.45). A lot could be riding on Lester Sunday with the kids starting the first two games of the series. Let’s see if they can pick up the slack from the overwhelmingly disappointing Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz.