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Red Sox-Rays series preview

06.18.13 at 8:51 am ET
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It’€™ll be a busy two days at home for the Red Sox, who will play three games against the Rays before heading back out on the road.

The Red Sox will be happy to come home after a frustrating series in Baltimore, even if it is only for two days. The Sox went 3-4 on the trip, dropping three games in a four-game set at Baltimore. The Orioles edged out the Sox in a few close games, winning by a one-run margin in the first game, a two-run margin in the second game and a three-run margin in the last game of the series. Despite the tough set against the divisional rival, the Sox still sit in first place with a 42-29 record, two games ahead of the Orioles, and own the best record in the American League.

The Red Sox have gotten the better of the Rays so far this year, taking seven of the nine games they’€™ve played against Tampa Bay. After losing two of three to the Red Sox last week, the Rays dropped their second series in a row, losing three of four in a series at home against the Royals. The Rays have scuffled on the road, with a 15-17 record away from Tropicana Field compared to a 21-16 record at home. At 36-33, Tampa Bay has fallen to fourth place in the division, sitting five games behind Boston and only three games ahead of the last-place Blue Jays.

The Rays offense has been better than anticipated, ranking in the top 10 of major league teams in runs scored, home runs and OPS, but the pitching staff has been failing to come through and earn the team wins. After a series in which the Rays scored nine runs over four games against the Royals, the club decided to bring up the player they got from Kansas City in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis: highly touted outfield prospect Wil Myers. Myers has been hot in Triple-A, with a .286/.356/.520 line in 64 games. The slugger has also crushed 14 home runs and 13 doubles, while driving in 57 runs this season for the Durham Bulls of the International League.

Myers likely will make his much-anticipated major league debut sometime during Tuesday’€™s doubleheader. The twinbill, which is due to the postponement of a game back on April 12, is the Boston’€™s third doubleheader of the season, while the Rays haven’€™t played two in one day yet this season. The Red Sox are 1-3 in doubleheader games this year.

Here are the pitching matchups for the three-game set.

Tuesday Game 1: Alfredo Aceves (3-1, 5.58) vs. Chris Archer (1-2, 4.80)
Tuesday Game 2: Felix Doubront (4-3, 4.91) vs. Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 8.03)
Wednesday: Ryan Dempster (4-7, 4.21) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 5.67)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

‘€¢ Mike Carp continues to make the most of the opportunities he’€™s been given. The first baseman/outfielder is 11 for his last 28 with a double, four home runs and eight RBIs, and has raised his line on the season to .324/.379/.686 despite an 0-for-19 stretch back in May. Carp already has three more home runs in 2013 than he did in 2012, and that’€™s in 59 less at-bats. The former Mariner had only 11 extra-base hits in 59 games for Seattle last year yet has clubbed 10 doubles, two triples and eight home runs this year in 42 games.

‘€¢ The hits just keep on coming for Jose Iglesias. He’€™s hit in 18 straight games, good for the longest active streak in the majors and the sixth longest streak by a rookie in Red Sox history (Nomar Garciaparra is atop that list with a 30-gamer in 1997). Iglesias’€™ ridiculous production has forced the Red Sox to find ways to put him in the lineup on a regular basis, and Iglesias has done all he can to make himself more valuable. The sure-handed shortstop has taken his defensive talents all over the infield, making 16 starts at third base and even making a start at second base, giving Dustin Pedroia his first day off. Although the type of offensive production Iglesias is contributing is not likely to last, he’€™s hit .438/.485/.562 with eight doubles and a home run through 99 plate appearances with the big league club.

‘€¢ Since taking the loss in a game against Texas back on June 5, Craig Breslow has been lights out. The lefty has fired four shutout innings over his last five appearances, while earning two holds and limiting opposing batters to only two hits and a .143 average. Breslow has been solid for the Red Sox over the past month and a half after missing April with an injury, with a 1.96 ERA over 18 1/3 innings, striking out 12 while walking six and allowing four earned runs.

WHO’S HOT: RAYS

‘€¢ Ben Zobrist was impressive against the Red Sox in the 14-inning contest back on June 10, going 5-for-7 with two doubles on the night. Zobrist, who is always a solid source of offensive production for the Rays, has picked up the pace as of late, batting .345/.406/.448 over his last seven games with five runs scored and an RBI. With the recent surge, Zobrist has brought his average up from .246 at the beginning of the month to .270 with a .754 OPS.

‘€¢ Reliever Jamey Wright has worked in many different spots for the Rays, from long relief to a set-up man, and lately he’€™s been succeeding in every role. Since giving up two runs on five hits in his first appearance in June, Wright has not allowed a run in six appearances, while he hasn’€™t allowed a hit in his last five. Wright has also averaged more than a strikeout per inning over his last six outings. The 38-year-old veteran owns a 3.55 ERA in 33 innings on the year.

‘€¢ Evan Longoria saw his eight-game hit streak snapped on Sunday, but the third baseman still is hitting .344 over his last nine games with two doubles and four home runs. Longoria really has been fantastic all season for the Rays, coming into the series with a .306/.365/.552 line. He’s leading the team in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, doubles and RBIs, and is tied with Matt Joyce for the most home runs.

WHO’S NOT: RED SOX

‘€¢ Stephen Drew had a rough road trip, going 2-for-24 in six games with one walk and nine strikeouts. The shortstop’€™s average has dipped to .215 through 56 games on the season, and he has struck out 61 times in 223 plate appearances, good for a 27.4 percent rate, well above his career average of 18.3 percent. Drew’€™s .679 OPS is the second lowest on the team amongst qualifiers, while his 61 strikeouts are third most on the club.

‘€¢ Closer Andrew Bailey hasn’€™t been getting many save opportunities as of late, but he did get three chances on the road trip, closing out two games successfully while blowing his first save opportunity of the trip. Bailey has struggled to get through an outing without allowing a baserunner, as he allowed six hits, three walks and four runs over three innings in his last three appearances. The right-hander has not had a 1-2-3 inning since his return from the disabled list on May 22, and has compiled a 5.00 ERA while giving up 10 hits, five walks and five runs in that span while striking out 10.

‘€¢ The last six outings for Jon Lester have been a struggle, and it didn’€™t get much easier in his last outing, with the lefty giving up five runs on nine hits while striking out eight. Lester took the loss and fell to 6-4 on the season, and the starter hasn’€™t won a decision since May 15. In his last six starts, Lester has posted an 0-4 record with a 7.20 ERA, walking 18 while striking out 30 and allowing seven home runs. Opposing batters are hitting .325 against him in his last six outing as opposed to .204 through his first nine.

WHO’S NOT: RAYS

‘€¢ Since Matt Moore began the season 8-0, things have not been going well for him. The 24-year-old has lost his last three decisions and has been hit very hard in all of them. He owns a 13.86 ERA over his last three outings, walking 11 while striking out 11 and hitting two batters while failing to make it out of the sixth inning in each of those starts. Moore’€™s ERA has shot up from 2.18 coming into June up to 4.12, while opposing batters are hitting .448 against him this month.

‘€¢ The lack of production out of left fielder Kelly Johnson this month could have been part of what prompted the Myers call-up. Johnson is hitting only .109 with one extra-base hit in 46 at-bats this month and has not had a multi-hit game since May 28. Johnson has cooled off quickly after a scorching May in which he hit .330/.374/.668 with 26 RBIs, seven home runs and six doubles, and the cold streak has caused Johnson’€™s line to dip to .246/.319/.448 on the year.

‘€¢ Though he’€™s been one of the Rays’€™ hottest hitters throughout the season, James Loney has struggled a bit recently, going 1-for-21 over his last six games, including a hitless streak that extends over his last five games. Despite the recent slump, Loney is still batting .301 on the season with a .837 OPS, with 22 walks and only 29 strikeouts in 253 plate appearances.

Read More: Ben Zobrist, Craig Breslow, jose iglesias, mike carp
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