BOSTON SPORTS WAVE

Red Sox vs. Rays Series Preview: Pitching Probables, Start Times, Storylines, Keys to the Series

The Red Sox will head to Tampa to take on the Rays in a crucial four game series, beginning on Monday night. Despite dropping the finale against the Indians, Boston has won its third straight series, after losing five of its previous six sets.

They will now be tasked with defeating one of the hottest teams in baseball, as Tampa Bay has won nine of its last ten. The Rays are the only 80-win team in the American League, and one of three in all of baseball (SFG, LAD). After the Athletics’ defeat of the Yankees on Sunday night, the Red Sox sit two games behind New York for the first Wild Card spot, and 2.5 games ahead of the A’s for the second.

Game 1 (Monday, 7:10 PM ET) 

Nick Pivetta (9-6, 4.57 ERA) will get the ball for Boston in Game 1. The righty has had an inconsistent season, allowing four earned runs in five of his last eight starts. Over his last two outings, he has given up eight runs and ten hits in just 5.2 innings of work.

Despite his recent struggles, Pivetta carries a sparkling 1.68 ERA against the Rays this season (3 ER in 16.1 IP). He has struck out 18 batters against the division rivals while allowing just five hits. Pivetta will look to bounce back against a team that he has dominated in 2021.

The flamethrowing Luis Patino (3-3, 4.53 ERA) will start in the series opener for the Rays. According to Baseball Savant, Patino‘s four-seam fastball has an average velocity of 96.7 MPH, topping out at 100.3. On August 10th against the Red Sox, the 21-year-old gave up four earned runs in six innings of work, including a three-run homer off the bat of Hunter Renfroe. Despite the damaging big fly, Patino notched seven Ks in the outing.

Game 2 (Tuesday, 7:10 PM ET) 

Both the Red Sox and Rays’ starters for Game Two are listed as TBD (to be determined). It could be Brad Peacock who starts for Boston, who was just acquired.

Game 3 (Wednesday, 7:10 PM ET) 

Chris Sale (3-0, 2.35 ERA) will make the start in Game 3 for the Sox. Since returning from Tommy John surgery, Sale has dominated across three outings, punching out 21 batters over 15.1 innings pitched. In his last time out, the left hander tossed an immaculate third inning, striking out the side on a minimal nine pitches. It was the third immaculate inning of Sale’s career (all since 2019), making him the second pitcher ever to achieve the feat three times (Sandy Koufax). Sale will look to keep the ball rolling against Tampa Bay, whom he has a 3.00 ERA against in his career.

Drew Rasmussen (1-1, 3.46 ERA) will be on the bump for the Rays on Wednesday night. The Oregon State product has had a steady season, posting a 1.23 WHIP along with 58 strikeouts in 52 IP. Rasmussen, who began the season in Milwaukee, has mainly been used as a reliever (appearing in 25 games out of the bullpen). However, each of his last three outings have been starts. In three appearances against Boston, he has allowed a pair of earned runs in 6.2 innings, striking out seven.

Game 4 (Thursday, 7:10 PM ET) 

Eduardo Rodriguez (10-7, 5.12 ERA) will pitch the series finale for Boston. Last time out, E-Rod was able to bounce back against Cleveland. The southpaw allowed three earned runs over seven quality innings, despite striking out just two batters. In two starts against Tampa this season, he has allowed five earned runs in 11.1 innings (4.05 ERA). While he has given up 11 hits against the Rays, he has also recorded 15 strikeouts at their expense. Rodriguez will look to continue his overall resurgence as he takes on the AL East rivals.

Starting Game Four for Tampa Bay will be the lefty Shane McClanahan (9-4, 3.59 ERA). McClanahan has pitched well for the Rays this season, striking out 117 batters with a 1.29 WHIP. Over his last seven starts, he is 6-1 with a 2.90 ERA. The Florida native has an ERA of just 2.76 in the month of August.

Keys to the Series 

If the Red Sox want to edge out their division rivals, they can’t look back once they’ve grabbed the lead. In Game 3 against Cleveland, the Sox were up 5-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, before the bullpen allowed four unanswered runs to score in the final two frames. Such collapses cannot happen as the Sox look to claw their way into October. The offense has proven to be streaky at times, so when Boston is able to put up runs, the pitching staff needs to take advantage.

Additionally, the Red Sox need to treat this four-game set like a playoff series. If Boston can hold on and advance out of the Wild Card round, they will likely take on the Rays, who are the current one seed by a five-game margin. The Sox have a golden opportunity to make a statement about their resilience, and they will need both the players and the coaches to bring October-like intensity to make it happen.

Storylines:

Boston had another COVID-19 positive test, and acquired a pitcher.

(Photo by Chris O’Meara/AP Photo) 

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