Steven Souza

Red Sox-Rays series preview

April 21, 2015 - 8:02 am

Having at the very least temporarily reclaimed first place in the division, the Red Sox are taking a road trip to visit the two AL East teams they haven't yet faced this season. To start, Boston will head down to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, for a three-game set with the Rays. The Sox are coming off a series split with the Orioles and have yet to lose a series this season, as they won their first three. "I would imagine we're going to be neck-and-neck with most everybody in this division throughout," manager John Farrell said Monday. "Anytime you can come away with the final game of a series to earn a split -- whether it's home or road -- it sends us off on a positive note." The Red Sox took a rain-shortened 7-1 victory over Baltimore on Monday, capitalizing on the Orioles' three errors. So far this season, Boston has crossed the plate 18 times on 20 errors opposing teams have committed. The Sox are 6-0 when scoring the first run. The Red Sox have a bit of a problem, though. For all the offense they generate, as they have scored the fourth-most runs in the majors, the Sox have allowed the fifth-most runs to be scored on them. Of the other teams in the top 10 for scoring, only two besides the Sox are also in the top 10 for runs allowed, and none others are in the top five. In fact, the Red Sox are the only team more than one game above .500 in the top 10 for runs allowed. Currently occupying the fourth spot in the divisional standings, Tampa Bay is sitting one game below .500 (6-7). After starting the season with two losses to the Orioles, the Rays managed a 2-0 win in their series finale with Baltimore before going on to win their next series against the Marlins. Tampa managed to nab two wins in Toronto against the Blue Jays, but comes into Tuesday's matchup riding a three-game losing streak as a result of being swept by the Yankees over the weekend. The Red Sox will get pitchers one, two and three of the Rays rotation, and two of them are toting sub-2.00 ERAs. Despite that, Tampa is seventh in the league in earned runs with 59 total. And while the Rays offense is struggling, scoring the 15th-most runs in the league and posting a .226 batting average, good for 20th, the team's pitching staff is holding opposing batters to a league sixth-best .221 average. In 19 games against Tampa last year, the Red Sox just about split the season series, recording a 9-10 mark. Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Wade Miley (0-1, 10.57) vs. Chris Archer (2-1, 1.37) Joe Kelly (1-0, 2.13) vs. Nathan Karns (1-1, 4.58) Clay Buchholz (1-2, 6.06) vs. Jake Odorizzi (2-1, 1.74) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Brock Holt continues to do Brock Holt things, recording at least one hit in six of his last seven games. The super sub's average fell to .462 from .500 after going 0-for-2 in Monday's game against the Orioles, and he has two doubles and five RBIs so far. -- After two starts, Joe Kelly's ERA at 2.13 is a full three points lower than any other starting pitcher in the rotation. Slated to take the mound in the middle game of the series, Kelly struggled a bit in his most recent campaign, lasting 5 2/3 innings and tossing over 118 pitches. In what was a bit of a grind of a start, he allowed two runs on four hits. -- Craig Breslow is quietly bolstering the bullpen with a 0.00 ERA through 9 2/3 innings pitched. His most recent appearance was during Boston's Sunday loss when he pitched three innings of two-hit baseball with three strikeouts. So far this season, the lefty has eight K's, five walks and just three hits allowed. WHO'S HOT: RAYS -- Of Rays with at least 40 at-bats, Steven Souza Jr. is pacing the team with 13 hits, good for a .289 batting average. Through 13 games the right fielder has two doubles, three home runs, six walks and 10 RBIs, the most of anyone on the team. He also leads the team in strikeouts, though, with 19. -- Chris Archer, with his 1.37 ERA, is 14th among starting pitchers in that regard. He is averaging 9.61 strikeouts per nine innings. Paired with his 1.83 walks per nine, Archer is toting a 5.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The righty is holding opposing batters to a .136 average. -- Slightly lower down on the list, Jake Odorizzi is 19th in the league with a 1.74 ERA and third in opponent batting average, holding teams to hit .129 against him. Odorizzi is averaging 8.27 strikeouts per nine in 20 2/3 innings pitched. Each of his three starts were quality, as he lasted at least six innings in each one and has yet to give up more than three runs. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- After his impressive series against the Nationals, Mookie Betts had his six-game hitting streak come to an end in Boston's first game against Baltimore. In fact, he didn't register a hit against the O's until the final game of the series, finishing 1-for-11 and lowering his batting average to .196. -- Mike Napoli continues to struggle at the plate, going 2-for-13 in the Baltimore series, and has yet to record a multi-hit game. Though he's drawing more and more walks, steadily increasing his on-base percentage, he has one extra-base hit on the year and just recorded his first RBI of the season Monday after drawing a bases-loaded walk. -- Of the Red Sox roster, none is more Jekyll and Hyde than the starting staff. Almost through the third go-round of the rotation, all but one pitcher has an ERA over 5.50, though they all have shown signs of how good they can be. After beginning the year with a scoreless seven innings, Clay Buchholz then earned nine runs in 3 1/3 innings but bounced back for a six-inning, two-run campaign in his third start. Similarly, Justin Masterson recorded a quality start in his first outing, allowing two runs in six innings, but then gave up seven in 4 2/3 innings his next time out. His most recent start was cut short by the rain, but he had one earned run on three hits and six strikeouts through five innings. Rick Porcello allowed just three runs in each of his first two starts, lasting at least six innings in both, but struggled on Sunday against the Orioles and surrendered eight runs on 12 hits in five innings. Wade Miley followed the trend as well, allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings of four-hit ball in his first start but then giving up seven runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Nats. WHO'S NOT: RAYS -- A career .270 hitter, Evan Longoria is having trouble getting his bat going this season. Through 40 at-bats, he has just eight hits, five for extra bases, for a .200 average and two RBIs. In Tampa Bay's series against the Yankees, Longoria finished 1-for-9 with one strikeout and one walk. -- After starting the season with eight hits in his first 25 at-bats, Asdrubal Cabrera is 2-for-27 since. With five RBIs on the season, he ranks fourth on the team in driving in runs, but he has just one RBI in his last seven games. - Rene Rivera, a .500 hitter against Wade Miley in six plate appearances, is batting just .119 this season. Though he's not a particularly prolific hitter in terms of his career, Rivera failed to get a hit until his sixth game of the season when he went 3-for-4 against the Marlins on April 12. In the following seven games, Rivera has two hits in 22 at-bats. He has walked just once all season and has struck out five times in his last four games.