Kevin Kiermaier has eight hits in his last 24 at-bats as the Rays head to Boston for a three-game series. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Rays series preview

May 04, 2015 - 8:59 am
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Having spent the last week at home, the Red Sox will finish up their homestand at Fenway when the Rays cruise into Boston. Like the Sox, Tampa also dropped its weekend series, though the Rays at least picked up one victory against the Orioles. Boston finished up the weekend without a win in three games against the Yankees, getting outscored 15-9 in the process. The Red Sox are 3-7 in their last 10 games and have sole possession of fourth place in the division, falling below .500 for the first time this year. The third-place Rays only have a one-game advantage over Boston, but they have a more encouraging 6-4 record in their last 10. While the Sox were dealing with New York, the Rays welcomed the O's to Tropicana Field. Originally scheduled to take place at Camden Yards, the series was moved to Florida to avoid the unrest in Baltimore. Tampa picked up a 2-0 win to start the series but was shut out the following night, 4-0, and then lost 4-2 in the rubber game. The area in which Tampa has struggled most so far this season, as evidenced by the four runs it scored in three games, is offense. Clocking in at sixth worst in the league in runs scored and seventh worst in hits, the Rays have a team batting average of .230. Only five teams have a worse time at the plate. "I think we'll break out of it. We've just got to keep working," first baseman James Loney said of his team's offense. "Our pitching's been good. We've got to help them out." For all the trouble the Rays have with offense, as Loney pointed out, they have some of the best pitching in the league. Allowing an MLB-low 105 hits, Tampa's rotation has given up just 51 earned runs, third best among all 30 teams. The Rays' team ERA of 3.34 ranks fifth and their team WHIP of 1.08 is tops in the majors. Tampa also holds opponents to a .210 batting average, a full .13 below the Pirates' second-best .223. The Rays relievers haven't been quite as dominant, posting a combined 4.03 ERA in 87 innings pitched, the fifth-most work logged by any team. They've given up 39 earned runs, eighth most in the league, but also have a ninth-best WHIP of 1.18. Batters are hitting .219/.301/.359 against the Tampa bullpen compared to the .210/.280/.329 slash line the starters force. If the Sox hope to come out of the series with a win, they need to get past the Rays starters. In the teams' first meeting of the season, the Red Sox dropped two of three games. They took the series opener with a 1-0 victory but then lost 7-5 and 2-1 in the following contests at the Trop. In the nine games since that series, the Sox are averaging five runs a game with a .267/.338/.444 slash line. The Rays, on the other hand, are posting 3.4 runs per game with a line of .232/.285/.354. However, they are keeping opponents to 2.7 runs per game and hold a 2.67 ERA through 81 innings while Boston has a 6.39 ERA with 6.7 runs per game allowed through 80 1/3 innings. Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Clay Buchholz (1-3, 5.76 ERA) vs. Jake Odorizzi (2-2, 2.41 ERA) Rick Porcello (2-2, 5.34 ERA) vs. Drew Smyly (0-0, 3.38 ERA) Justin Masterson (2-0, 4.71 ERA) vs. Alex Colome (1-0, 0.00 ERA) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Pablo Sandoval has hits in eight of his last 10 games and is batting .417/.475/.667 in 40 plate appearances. The third baseman has three doubles and eight RBIs to go along with that, registering four walks as well. -- Since the Red Sox returned home from their road trip to Tampa and Baltimore, Mookie Betts has been on a bit of a hot streak. With eight hits in his last six games, four of which went for doubles, Betts is hitting .320/.379/.480 with six RBIs and three walks. -- In his first 15 games of the season, David Ortiz batted.192/.317/.385 with 10 hits in 52 at-bats, notching a double, three home runs and five RBIs in that span. Since April 24, however, Ortiz has posted a slash line of .344/.389/.531 with seven RBIs on 11 hits, three for doubles and one for a home run. WHO'S HOT: RAYS -- Logan Forsythe's batting average has fluctuated throughout the season, dipping as low as .167 at one point and reaching .297 at another. In his last six games, Forsythe has a slash line of .381/.381/.619 with three doubles, a triple and two RBIs. -- In his last seven games Kevin Kiermaier has eight hits in 24 at-bats, batting at a .333/.360/.500 clip in that time with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs. -- Taking the mound for the first time this season Friday, Alex Colome turned in a scoreless five innings of work in which he allowed just three hits and fanned six, walking none. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Edward Mujica has not inspired much confidence in his last four appearances, allowing five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. Opposing batters have hit .348/.444/.478 against him in that time, and he has recorded three walks and two strikeouts on 106 pitches. -- It had to happen eventually, but Brock Holt is struggling at the plate over his past five games, registering one hit in his last 14 at-bats. The utility man has two walks and six strikeouts with a .071/.235/.071 slash line. -- Since April 25, Xander Bogaerts is hitting sub-.200, going 6-for-31 with a double, a home run, a walk and seven strikeouts. WHO'S NOT: RAYS -- If anyone has cooled off recently, it's Steven Souza Jr. The right fielder has hit .094/.194/.094 ever since his team finished its previous series with Boston. He's 3-for-32 with four walks and a whopping 16 strikeouts. -- Coming into the Rays' last series with the Sox, David DeJesus was hitting .417. From that series onward, he has a slash line of .100/.182/.100 in his last 11 games. DeJesus is 3-for-30 in that time with two walks and seven strikeouts. -- In his last four appearances, relief pitcher Brandon Gomes has opponents batting .316/.381/.526 against him, giving up three earned runs and posting a 2-2 record in 4 1/3 innings for a 6.23 ERA. He's walked one, struck out two and given up a home run on 72 pitches.

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