After winning two out of three against Cleveland, the shorthanded Red Sox will take on the Rays in a three-game series at Fenway, beginning with a day game on Monday. As the Yankees and Sox both lost on Sunday, Boston will enter the series 0.5 games behind New York for the first Wild Card spot. The Mariners beat the Diamondbacks 10-4 yesterday, to put them just three games behind the Red Sox. Additionally, the Toronto Blue Jays flattened the Athletics 8-0 in their series finale, to put both clubs four games behind.

Game 1 (Monday, 1:10 PM ET) 

The ace Chris Sale (3-0, 2.53 ERA) will be on the bump for Boston on Monday. In four starts since his return from injury, Sale has allowed just six earned runs in 21.1 IP, while striking out 24. Additionally, he has posted a 1.13 WHIP. On September 1st, the southpaw went six strong against Tampa, allowing a pair of earned runs in an eventual Sox win.

Sale’s primary two pitches, his four-seam and his slider, have been virtually unhittable in 2021. According to, his fastball has garnered a whiff rate of 34.6%, with opponents batting just .139 against the pitch. His signature slider has been nearly as dominant, as shown by its .182 opposing average and 32.5% whiff rate. However, the seven-time All-Star’s third pitch, his changeup, has been ineffective. Sale has thrown the changeup 73 times this season (21.8% of the time), and opponents are batting .474 against it (9/19) with a .684 slugging percentage. Sale will need to regain comfort with his third pitch in order to continue dominating offenses.

Ryan Yarbrough (8-4, 4.50 ERA) will open the series for Tampa Bay. In 134 innings, Yarbrough has pitched to a 1.17 WHIP, while striking out 104. On August 31st, he quieted the Sox bats, allowing two earned runs in six innings in a winning effort. However, the lefthander has struggled as of late. In his last seven games, he has an ERA of 5.02, allowing 37 hits in 37.2 innings pitched.

Game 2 (Tuesday, 7:10 PM ET) 

Making the start for the Red Sox in Game 2 will be Eduardo Rodriguez (11-7, 4.88 ERA). Rodriguez has had an inconsistent season, but he has been on an overall upward trend in the second half. In August, he recorded a 3.33 ERA in 27 innings of work, going 3-1 in five starts. While he allowed 25 hits and 10 walks in that span, he also punched out 29. On September 2nd vs Tampa, E-Rod dominated, firing six shutout innings and striking out six.

Drew Rasmussen (1-1, 3.38 ERA) will start for the Rays on Tuesday night. The Oregon State alum has appeared in 31 games this season (only six starts), striking out 63 in 56 innings to go with a 1.20 WHIP. In his last seven appearances, Rasmussen has a 1.93 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. In his last outing, he allowed one earned run in four innings against Boston, striking out five.

Game 3 (Wednesday, 7:10 PM ET) 

Boston’s starter for Game 3 is currently listed as TBD (to be decided). Nathan Eovaldi (10-8, 3.73 ERA) will likely end up making the start. Eovaldi has recorded quality starts in three of his last five outings, dating back to August 11th (when he pitched seven innings of one-run ball in a win over the Rays). In that start, Nathan struck out 10 while allowing just three hits and a walk. Since then, he has posted a sparkling ERA of 2.38 with 39 punchouts in 30.2 innings of work.

Shane McClanahan (9-5, 3.76 ERA) will be Tampa Bay’s starter in the series finale. McClanahan has pitched well in his last seven games, going 5-2 with an ERA of 3.57. On September 2nd, he surrendered four earned runs and eight hits in five innings against Boston. Despite being hit hard and tagged for the loss, he managed to strike out eight Red Sox.

Keys to the Series 

In order to take the series against the rival Rays, the Sox need to take advantage of scoring opportunities. While the overall production has been there, they have faltered in key moments at times.

In the bottom of the fifth in the series finale against the Indians, the Sox had two men in scoring position with one out and a chance to tie the game. Devers and Arauz proceeded to strike out swinging to end the frame.

Following the J.D. Martinez home run in the sixth to make it a one-run game, Alex Verdugo doubled with one out in the inning, putting the tying run at second base. Plawecki and Shaw then grounded out consecutively, wasting yet another opportunity to knot it up.

The Red Sox need to hit in key spots if they want to contend with Tampa Bay.


The current theme of this team is their resiliency. On Sunday, the Red Sox placed RHP Nick Pivetta and utility man Danny Santana on the COVID-19 IL, bringing their total of coaches / players on the virus list to 14.

When asked on Wednesday about the Coronavirus outbreak, Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom said, “It’s gut wrenching. How else can you react? Every single one has been.”

Despite the impact that such circumstances can have both in the field and in the clubhouse, the Red Sox have consistently found ways to piece together wins (going 6-4 in their last ten games). That can be attributed to less-experienced players finding ways to step up and contribute, as well as Alex Cora’s multifaceted managerial skills. If the Red Sox can continue to stand their ground admist a raging COVID-19 outbreak, it’ll provide inspiration to achieve even better feats when the team is once again healthy.

Thankfully, CF/2B/SS Kiké Hernández is back in Boston. As long he as clears COVID-19 protocols, he could be back with the team as soon as Tuesday.

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