Red Sox Preview: Flying south to Tampa Bay


The Boston Red Sox (66-73) head south to take on the Tampa Bay Rays (68-71) in their final visit of the year to Tropicana Field.

The Red Sox are coming off a very impressive series in which they clobbered the Toronto Blue Jays in a pair of decisive victories, while coming within an extra-innings bullpen implosion of sweeping one of the hottest teams in baseball. The Jays lead the majors by a mile with a +190 run differential, but the streaking Sox managed to outscore them 22-13 over the three-game series.

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Tampa Bay snapped a three-game losing streak with a shutout victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday to wrap up a nine-game road trip. They lost each of their last two series on the trip and have dropped 5 of their last 7 games.

This series will give Boston a chance to gain ground against their division foe, with the possibility of moving ahead of them for third place in the division by the end of the weekend. A sweep on the road may be a bit optimistic, but the Red Sox certainly have momentum on their side.

Pitching Matchups @ Tropicana Field

September 11 @ 7:10 PM

September 12 @ 6:10 PM

September 12 @ 1:10 PM

Series Notes:

  • By the time the Red Sox wrapped up their series against the Blue Jays, Boston had overtaken Toronto for the most runs scored in the league since August 1 with 214. Tampa has scored 162 runs during that stretch.
  • Jackie Bradley will surpass 150 at-bats for the season in this series. His .980 OPS is the third best in the league among hitters with as least as many at-bats.
  • Xander Bogaerts is tied for second in the league with a .318 batting average. Miguel Cabrera still has a commanding lead at .351, but due to the time he missed with injuries, Cabrera still needs 65 more plate appearances to qualify. That leaves Bogaerts still in contention for a batting title.
  • Tampa Bay’s starters are third in the league this season with a collective 3.65 ERA, but their bullpen has only been middle of the pack (3.74 ERA). The Rays will send a pair of pitches to the mound in Moore and Smyly that are still working their way back from lengthy absences and haven’t been able to pitch deep into games. Boston can use that to their advantage by exploiting the Rays’ middle relievers.

Key Hitters:

Red SoxDavid Ortiz

  • Big Papi is closing in on 500 career home runs, needing only two more to join the exclusive club. It may even happen in this series. 31 of Ortiz’s home runs have come at Tropicana Field, which is the second most he has hit in any visiting ball park. He’s been hot lately, blasting 3 homers already this month with a staggering 1.133 OPS over his last 8 games. I predict he’ll get one in this series, then spend the rest of the road trip bunting against the shift for easy singles so that he can hit No. 500 in front of the home crowd when the Rays come to Boston on the 21st of the month.

RaysEvan Longoria

  • The face of the franchise is on fire this month, slashing .379/.459/.793 over his last 8 games. Longoria is tied for the team lead with 4 homers this month, giving him 19 on the season. He has hit at least 22 home runs in every season of his career in which he’s played at least 75 games, so this late power surge may still give him a shot at surpassing that mark again over the next few weeks.


Game One Winner – Red Sox

Archer has been one of the league’s best starters this season, but he’s starting to fade a bit and has been roughed up for a loss in three of his last five starts. The Red Sox have also had some success against him this year, as he owns an 0-2 record with a 3.86 ERA against them. Boston hasn’t seen Archer since late June and their offense has been rolling against the rest of the league since then.

Game Two Winner – Red Sox

E-Rod is 7-1 with a 1.68 ERA in night games this season. Granted the 6:10 start time is a bit earlier than usual, but it’s still a night game. The Rays are the lowest scoring team in the league this year, so Rodriguez should have no problem carving them up. He should have a significant edge over Moore, who is struggling to return to form following a year off from Tommy John surgery and hasn’t made it through more than 5 innings in a start this season. The Red Sox torched Moore for 6 runs in only 3 innings the last time they met and the results may not be much better this time.

Game Three Winner – Rays

It’d be nice to get the sweep and move out of the basement of the AL East, but it’s tough to bet on a 35-year old pitcher making his first appearance in the big leagues in almost a year. Hill hasn’t started a game since 2009. He was effective over several very brief stints in the Red Sox bullpen from 2010-2012, but has struggled as a reliever in every stop he’s made since. What we will get out of Hill in his return to the rotation is anyone’s guess, but I don’t like his chances against Smyly.

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