7:10 PM EST – Line: Red Sox -170, Over/Under: 7.5
Division Rivals battle in an attempt to get things back on track as the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays meet in the second chapter in a Three-Game Series from Tropicana Field. The term Championship Hangover oftentimes is associated with teams who found themselves on the losing end of the sport’s biggest stage, but it can also infect the winners as well, which is how one can describe the 2019 Red Sox (54-45, 3rd in AL East). After winning their Ninth World Series Championship, Boston began this season in miserable fashion, losing thirteen of their first nineteen games, with Alex Cora’s men playing catchup ever since. This is a crucial stretch for the reigning champs, who after concluding this Series with the Rays will meet the Division-Leading New York Yankees for a Four-Game Series at Fenway Park, which will go a long way towards dictating where exactly they fall in the race for the Wild Card; at the moment, they’re three games out of the final Wild Card, and one behind tonight’s opponent the Rays. Since the All-Star Break, the Red Sox have largely treaded water, going 5-4 heading into this Series with the Rays, though it’s been a veritable rollercoaster as far as the margin of runs that have decided their fate day in and day out; in their five victories, Boston has enjoyed a Plus-5.2 Run Differential, but in their four defeats have been dumped by margin of 6.8 Runs. Don’t blame their Offense for their erratic play, for Cora’s charges have ranked First in the American League in a slew of categories, including Hits (967), Runs (566), Doubles (205), and Walks (384), along with Batting Average (.274) and On-Base Percentage (.347). The Pitching Staff has been a different story altogether though, ranking in the middle of the league in Team ERA (4.67, 7th) and Walks (337, 9th), along with a disappointing Twelfth in Saves (20). It doesn’t take an expert to see that this group needs to be addressed by the Trade Deadline, with Management likely looking for both a Starter to slot into the back of the Rotation, and more importantly a reliable arm in the Bullpen. Taking the mound tonight will be Chris Sale (4-9, 4.05 ERA, 20 GS, 117.2 IP, 98 H, 53 ER, 17 HR, 29 BB, 172 K, 1.079 WHIP), who has been the victim of the Bullpen’s woes more so than anyone. After losing four out of his first Five Starts, the All-Star Lefthander has seen six of his Starts end without a Decision. However, he continues to be a Strikeout Machine in 2019, averaging a whopping 13.2 Strikeouts per Nine Innings, which is just short of the career-high set last season (13.5). However, he’s also relinquished more Hits (7.5), Walks (2.2), and Home Runs (1.3) per Nine Innings this season, which has resulted in his ERA ballooning from 2.11 last year to 4.05. When we last saw him, Sale ended a four-game stretch without a victory, dominating the Toronto Blue Jays in a 5-0 shutout, relinquishing a scant Two Hits with Twelve Strikeouts and a pair of Walks. It was a welcome sign, for in the month of July he has struggled with the rest of the Pitching Staff, owning a 5.51 ERA in Three Starts. Perhaps a meeting with the Rays will give him an opportunity to course correct a bit, for over the course of his career, he’s been very effective against tonight’s opponent; since 2011, Sale is 9-6 with a 2.94 ERA in Nineteen Appearances versus Tampa Bay, registering a 0.954 WHIP, while averaging 13.1 Strikeouts per Nine Innings.
Meanwhile, though they’ve taken a different route to get here, the Rays (56-45, 2nd in AL East) have nonetheless fallen into the same fate as their opponent tonight. However, the problem for this team has been fairly simple: it has a name and it’s the New York Yankees. It can be said that if it wasn’t for the Yanks, then Tampa could very well be sitting atop the American League, for they’re 5-12 against their Division Rivals (.294) in comparison to 51-33 against everyone else (.607). Over the course of their recent Four-Game Series, Kevin Cash’s troops were outscored 6-19 in the last three games, all of which were losses. If his charges do indeed finally make their return to the Postseason, it will be on the backs, or rather the arms, of their Pitching Staff, which has been the most formidable in the American League in 2019. In a season in which the headlines have been commanded by the Long Ball, it’s refreshing to see a club win with Pitching. Tampa Bay ranks First in the league in a slew of categories, including Team ERA (3.42), Earned Runs (349), and Home Runs Allowed (104), along with Third in Strikeouts (979). Charlie Morton (11-3, 2.61 ERA, 21 GS, 124.1 IP, 91 H, 36 ER, 10 HR, 41 BB, 152 K, 1.062 WHIP) and Blake Snell (5-7, 4.55 ERA, 19 GS, 95.0 IP, 88 H, 48 ER, 14 HR, 33 BB, 126 K, 1.274 WHIP) have been bonafide Strikeout Machines, averaging 11.2 and 12.2 Strikeouts per Nine Innings respectively, while Tyler Glasnow (6-1, 1.86 ERA, 8 GS, 48.1 IP, 35 H, 10 ER, 3 HR, 9 BB, 55 K, 0.910 WHIP), who may just be the best of the bunch, has been sidelined with a Right Forearm Strain for Two Months and is expected to make his return to the Rotation in a few weeks. Taking the mound tonight for the Rays will be Yonny Chirinos (8-5, 3.29 ERA, 14 GS, 112.0 IP, 90 H, 41 ER, 17 HR, 24 BB, 97 K, 1.018 WHIP), yet another member of this impressive, young Pitching Staff. The Venezuelan has emerged as a fixture in the Rotation, in this, his first season as a regular Starter, ranking Second in the American League in WHIP (1.018) and Tenth in ERA (3.29). When we last saw him, Chirinos yet again met defeat at the hands of the Yankees, for the second time in the span of Two Weeks. In 5.0 innings of labor, the 25-Year Old was tagged for Four Earned Runs on Nine Hits with Eight Strikeouts in comparison to Two Walks, though did relinquish his Seventeenth Homer of the campaign. Like the Rays in general, Chirinos hasn’t enjoyed a good run of form against the Bronx Bombers, posting a 4.05 ERA with a 1.200 WHIP, yielding Five Home Runs this season. However, he’s been much better against he Red Sox this season, shutting them out over the course of 8.0 Innings in a 5-1 victory back on June 7th, striking out six and walking two.