The Boston Red Sox try to avoid a two-game losing streak when they face the host Tampa Bay Rays in the first of a key three-game weekend series between American League East rivals on Friday night. The first pitch for the series opener is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Boston split a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays, falling in the series finale 13-1 on Thursday night. The Red Sox are 63-41, which is the second-best record in the American League, trailing the Houston Astros by a half-game.
The Rays salvaged the finale of a three-game series with the New York Yankees on Thursday, winning 14-0 to improve to 61-42. Tampa Bay is in second place in the AL East, trailing the first-place Red Sox by 1½ games and leading the third-place Yankees by seven games.
The MLB odds for this contest have the Rays with a moneyline of -131, while the Red Sox are listed at +121. The over/under for the series opener is set at nine runs.
Boston already has the third-highest scoring offense in baseball with 520 runs, but the Red Sox added another power hitter with the acquisition of outfielder Kyle Schwarber from the Washington Nationals. Schwarber is currently on the injured list with a right hamstring strain but is expected to return to action within a week. He had 16 home runs in June, giving him 25 for the season along with 53 RBIs.
Third baseman Rafael Devers has been the team’s biggest power hitter, leading the team with 27 home runs and 82 RBIs. His home run total is tied for the fourth-most in baseball while his RBI total is second in the majors. The 24-year-old is batting .286 with 28 doubles and 67 runs scored.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is ninth in baseball with his .307 batting average. The 28-year-old has 29 doubles, which is tied for the second-most in the majors, 15 home runs, 53 RBIs and 59 runs scored.
Left-hander Martin Perez will make the start for Boston in Friday’s opener. Perez is 7-6 with a 4.18 ERA, striking out 80 and walking 32 over 20 starts.
This is Perez’s second start against the Rays this season, as he went five innings and allowed three runs on five hits in his first meeting, taking a no-decision. The 30-year-old has dropped two straight decisions and is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA in four July starts.
The Rays used a 10-run sixth inning to blow open Thursday’s game with the Yankees. It was highlighted by outfielder Brett Phillips’ grand slam, his sixth home run of the season.
“First of all, innings like that, games like that are few and far between,” Phillips said after Thursday’s win. “That’s what makes baseball so fun right there.”
Second baseman Brandon Lowe leads the Rays with 22 home runs while Austin Meadows has added 20. Lowe also has 15 doubles, 52 RBIs and 55 runs scored while Meadows leads the team with 76 RBIs, hitting 23 doubles and scoring 59 times.
Newly acquired designated hitter Nelson Cruz started with a bang but is batting just .118 in five games with the Rays. He has just one hit over his last five appearances, a home run in Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Indians.
Left-hander Josh Fleming will get the start for the series opener. He’s 7-5 with a 4.07 ERA, striking out 44 and walking 20 over 77.1 innings.
Fleming is coming off a no-decision against Cleveland on July 23, as he went four innings and allowed three runs on six hits, including a home run, while striking out one and walking two. He has gone 1-1 with an 8.18 ERA over three appearances in July, picking up his win in the Rays’ combined seven-inning no-hitter against Cleveland on July 7.
The Red Sox have won four of the six previous meetings, though Tampa Bay took two of three in the last series in Florida. The Rays are 31-20 at home while the Red Sox are 30-19 on the road.
Boston will go with Nathan Eovaldi (9-5, 3.49 ERA) on the mound on Saturday with Nick Pivetta (8-4, 4.51) getting the Sunday start. Tampa Bay will counter with Ryan Yarbrough (6-4, 4.38) in the second game of the series, followed by Shane McClanahan (4-4, 3.93) in the finale.
The MLB series prices for this key set have the Rays as the favorites at -140, while the Red Sox are listed at +110.
Red Sox Win Opener
Boston is coming off an ugly loss to Toronto on Thursday night and is looking to bounce back in a big way. Tampa Bay could have some trouble getting a lot of offense going against Perez. When doing your MLB picks, take Boston to win on the road.
Pick: Boston Red Sox +121