Red Sox Preview: Chance to climb out of last place against Tampa Bay Rays


The Boston Red Sox (71-77) return home seeking an opportunity to climb out of the basement of the AL East when they take on the Tampa Bay Rays (72-77). While a series win would vault them over the Rays in the standings, the Red Sox will also be doing a bit of scoreboard watching to see how the Baltimore Orioles fare against their regional rivals in D.C. By the time the weekend rolls around, Boston could potentially be sitting as high as third place in the division.

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Boston is coming off of a series win over the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays, which means that the Red Sox will finish the season with a winning record (10-9) against arguably the best team in the American League. The Red Sox have won six of their last ten games, as they look to finish strong to avoid their third last place finish in the last four years.

The Rays split a four-game series with the Orioles over the weekend. With both teams essentially treading water, it allowed the Red Sox to gain a sliver of ground on each division rival. Tampa Bay had lost their previous 4 series and have not won a series since taking two out of three against Baltimore to begin the month.

This four-game set kicks off the final homestand of the season for the Red Sox. They’ll play seven games in front of the Fenway crowd before heading out on the road for seven more to wrap up the season.

Pitching Matchups @ Fenway Park

Monday, September 21 @ 7:10 PM

Tuesday, September 22 @ 7:10 PM

Wednesday, September 23 @7:10 PM

Thursday, September 24 @7:10 PM

Series Notes:

  • The Red Sox will kick off the homestand with a celebration for David Ortiz, who launched the 500th home run of his career during the team’s recent road trip. The Fenway Faithful will finally get the chance to shower the iconic slugger with admiration for his historic accomplishment.
  • Mookie Betts will play right field at Fenway for the first time this season. He shifted over to the position for the three-game series in Toronto, as Jackie Bradley took over his center field spot. Betts did play right field for six home games in 2014, but had played exclusively in center this year until this past weekend.
  • Bradley collected 3 hits in his last 7 trips to the plate over the weekend to break out of his mid-September slump. Prior to that he had recorded only 1 hit in his last 30 at-bats, while striking out 17 times during that span.
  • The Red Sox pitching staff remains one of the league’s worst this season, but they are showing signs of progress. Boston ranks 6th with a 3.87 ERA so far in September, which is a modest bump from last month when they ranked 11th (4.40 ERA). Boston’s 4.36 ERA since the break is 9th in the league.
  • Pablo Sandoval is out of the lineup to start the series due to illness. The Panda was running a fever that cost him two games in the Toronto series, but he returned to play on Sunday. His condition had apparently worsened by the time he arrived to the ballpark on Monday, so he was sent home.
  • Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo revealed that Hanley Ramirez is getting closer to returning to the field, but the team wants to make sure he is 100% healthy before he does. That seems a bit odd, considering at this point of the season nobody is 100% healthy.

Key Hitters:

Sep 20, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) scores in the fifth inning on a single by Boston Red Sox first baseman Travis Shaw (not pictured) against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Boston defeated Toronto 4-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox – Mookie Betts

  • If Betts is the table setter at the top of this lineup, lately he’s been setting it for a full-course meal. The 22-year old has been red-hot this month, slashing .379/.432/.561 over the last 16 games. 8 of his last 25 hits have gone for extra-bases, including a pair of homers. He has also performed significantly better at home this season, hitting .313 with an .875 OPS in the cozy confines of Fenway.

Sep 7, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Evan Longoria (3) hits a two run home run in the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rays – Evan Longoria

  • Longoria has feasted on Red Sox pitching this season, hitting .339/.418/.627 with three home runs in 15 games against Boston. The Rays third baseman has an .878 OPS this month, which is the highest it has been in any month this season. His counting stats may not blow anyone away, given that he plays in the heart of the league’s lowest scoring lineup, but Longoria remains a dangerous hitter.


Game One Winner: Red Sox

Archer has dominated a lot of teams this season, but Boston isn’t one of them. He’s 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 3 starts against the Red Sox this year, all of which came at pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field. Now he has to pitch at Fenway against an offense that thrives in front of their hometown fans.

Game Two Winner: Red Sox

Owens is coming off the best game of his career, having held Baltimore scoreless over 7.2 innings to earn his third win. The lefty should be able to keep rolling against the light-hitting Rays. Coincidentally, he’ll match up against Moore, who also had his best start of the season last time out against the O’s. Except in Moore’s case, his previous start before that saw him get lit up for 6 runs against this Red Sox lineup.

Game Three Winner: Rays

Just when we found hope that Porcello had turned the corner, he goes and gets knocked around by the Blue Jays. Granted most pitchers get hit hard when they visit Toronto, while the Rays pose much less of a threat. It’s still hard to pick him over Smyly, who struck out 11 over 6 scoreless innings when he last faced the Red Sox just over a week ago.

Game Four Winner: Red Sox

Miley has given up 3 runs or less in all three outings this month, which includes a 7 inning effort against these Rays. He has also pitched slightly better at home this season, while Ramirez has been a disaster on the road (5.13 ERA). That puts the Red Sox in good position to win the series and leap over the Rays in the standings.

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