7:10 PM EST – Line: Red Sox -145, Over/Under: 11
For the fifth time in eight days, AL East Rivals clash as the Boston Red Sox play host to the Tampa Bay Rays in the second leg of yet another Three-Game Series, this time from Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. If it feels like things are slowly slipping away from the Rays (60-48, 2nd in AL East), then that’s because they very much are, for with each passing day they’re deficit within the Division grows larger, while they fall further away from the final Wild Card in the American League. Granted, they’re only a half-game out of that coveted place in the standings, but based on their form over the past few months, it’s hard to see Tampa Bay managing to correct course anytime soon. Indeed, it’s been a very glacial decay for Kevin Cash’s charges, who in hindsight have squandered a surprising 35-20 start to the campaign, having gone 25-28 since June 1st. 8-9 since the All-Star Break, the biggest issue for this club, outside the fact that they’ve generally floundered against their direct competition in the AL East, going a dismal 5-12 against the New York Yankees and 6-6 versus the Red Sox, has been a sudden rash of injuries, which has done nothing but derail their trek towards a Postseason Return. The Batting Order has suffered from an assortment of maladies, with the likes of Brandon Lowe (.276 BA, 76 G, 77 H, 40 R, 17 2B, 16 HR, 49 RBI, 22 BB, 104 K), Yandy Diaz (.270 BA, 78 G, 82 H, 53 R, 20 2B, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 35 BB, 60 K), and Kevin Keirmaier (.248 BA, 89 G, 78 H, 43 R, 14 2B, 6 3B, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 17 SB, 20 BB, 70 K) each occupying a place on the Disabled List, leaving Cash and his Coaching Staff without reliable sources of offense. Furthermore, the Pitching Staff, which served as the prime catalyst to their success earlier in the season, has been rocked by injury as well, with now three of their Five Regular Starters hitting the DL; both Blake Snell (6-7, 4.28 ERA, 20 GS, 101.0 IP, 91 H, 48 ER, 14 HR, 35 BB, 136 K, 1.248 WHIP) and Ryne Stanek (0-2, 3.40 ERA, 27 GS, 55.2 IP, 44 H, 21 ER, 7 HR, 20 BB, 61 K, 1.150 WHIP) are dealing with various ailments, with the former set to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a loose tendon in his throwing elbow, charting his expected rehab to be around a month. Stanek, who has featured forty-one times, including Twenty-Seven Starts, has been used as a proverbial Utility Arm wherever Cash may need him, with the soreness in his hip sidelining him likely due to fatigue. Keep in mind that this is group that is already without arguably their most promising arms, 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 suffered a setback in his rehab from a right forearm strain, and is unlikely to return until much later in the season. And it’s with all that in mind, that the Rays will be turning to their Bullpen for immediate help in the Rotation, with Andrew Kittredge (1-0, 3.05 ERA, 15 G, 2 GS, 0 SV, 20.2 IP, 21 H, 7 ER, 3 HR, 6 BB, 26 K, 1.306 WHIP) set to make what would be just his third Start of the season. In his third year with the club, the Righthander fifteen appearances thus far, proving to be reliable when handed the ball. Kittredge has exhibited far better control of fastball in 2019, averaging 11.3 Strikeouts per Nine Innings, while brining his Walk Average down to 2.6 (4.0 in 2018), parlaying to a more than serviceable 4.33 Strikeout/Walk Ratio. When we last saw him, the 29-Year Old tossed 3.0 solid Innings in an eventual 9-10 loss at the Toronto Blue Jays, in which he relinquished a pair of Runs on Five Hits, racking up Seven Strikeouts and Zero Walks.
Meanwhile, the time to make a run is now for the Red Sox (59-48, 3rd in AL East), who at this point must recognize that their only remaining route to returning to the Playoffs lies in obtaining a Wild Card. Currently nine games out of First Place in their Division, Boston is just another of many competitors jockeying for one of the two Wild Cards available in the American League, trailing the Oakland Athletics by a full game in the Standings. Since the All-Star Break, Alex Cora’s charges have certainly gotten the message and responded from the Plate, where they’ve become a bonafide juggernaut with bat in hand; since the Midsummer Classic, the Sox have batted a scorching .298, while posting an On-Base Percentage of .360, a Slugging Percentage of .546, and an OPS of .906, blasting Thirty-Two Home Runs over those seventeen games, in which they’ve averaged 6.9 Runs per Game. The left side of the Infield in particular has been getting it done, with Xander Bogaerts (.316 BA, 103 G, 128 H, 85 R, 36 2B, 23 HR, 81 RBI, 57 BB, 87 K) and Rafael Devers (.329 BA, 104 G, 138 H, 86 R, 36 2B, 21 HR, 82 RBI, 34 BB, 72 K) making serious waves, with the former batting .372 with Nine Doubles, Seven Home Runs, and Twenty-Four Runs Batted In in July, while the latter has batted .350 with Eleven Doubles, Nine Homers and Thirty-Two RBIs in that period of time. It would be nice if the Pitching Staff would follow in kind, though that hasn’t been the case all the season for the defending World Series Champions. Since the Break, Boston’s Starters are 10-7 with an ERA and WHIP that have increased to 5.06 and 1.425 respectively, while serving up Twenty-Five Home Runs in seventeen contests. While they continue to strike out a batters at a high rate (9.9 per Nine Innings), it’s unrealistic to think that they can continue to operate as such due to the ridiculous Run Support they’ve received. Sooner or later, those bats will cool off and this group of arms will need to finally get their @#$% together. Taking the mound tonight for the Red Sox will be Rick Porcello (9-7, 5.55 ERA, 21 GS, 116.2 IP, 136 H, 72 ER, 19 HR, 33 BB, 92 K, 1.449 WHIP), who despite going undefeated in five consecutive Starts, has not been enjoying one of his better stretches throwing the baseball. Over the course of his career, the veteran Righthander has been a bit of a conundrum, capable of extreme highs and debilitating lows; after a glittering 22-Win campaign saw him claim the 2016 AL Cy Young award, he followed that up by leading the Majors with a whopping Seventeen Losses. It appears to be happening again for the 30-Year Old, who after going 17-7 with 4.28 ERA and 1.176 WHIP, while playing a large role in Boston’s run to World Series glory, has plummeted to a 9-7 Record with a career-worst 5.55 ERA and 1.449 WHIP. Like many members of the Rotation, Porcello has shown decline across the board, and has been nothing short of lucky of late; in the month of July, he registered a miserable 7.54 ERA and 1.632 WHIP, but has nonetheless benefitted from some staggering Run Support courtesy of his teammates, who have averaged a prolific 13.8 Runs over his last Five Starts. When we last saw him, he didn’t have to do much in what eventually ended in a 19-3 bludgeoning of the Yankees, in which he was actually pretty solid, relinquishing Three Earned Runs on Six Hits over the course of 6.0 Innings, striking out five and walking just one. In Thirty Career Starts against the Rays, Porcello has gone 14-11 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.202 WHIP, though in Two Starts against them in 2019 is 0-1 with a 4.63 ERA and 1.371 WHIP.