Chris Archer is having a Cy Young-caliber season for the Rays. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Rays series preview

June 26, 2015 - 7:39 am
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After losing a three-game set to the Orioles at Fenway, the Red Sox go on the road to take on the division-leading Rays. Despite playing a slightly better brand of baseball of late, the Sox remain in last place in the AL East.

Boston owns a 32-42 record, nine games back of the Rays in the division. The Red Sox are 5-5 in their last 10 games. Even with the recent spurt of mediocrity, the team still holds the worst record in the American League.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington acknowledged that as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, struggling teams sometimes need to give up on the current season and focus on the future. However, Cherington said that the Red Sox will try to improve more generally and still might be interested in adding major league talent as opposed to prospects.

"I think the more general statement is that we're going to work to get to a good team, get to the team that we believe we are actually closer to than many believe as quickly as we can," Cherington told Dennis & Callahan on Thursday. "So I foresee a scenario where we would even be interested in acquiring major league players, adding to the major league team. Depending on what our record is, it may be that those types of talks would be more geared towards players that we control, not just this year, but beyond this year, but I think that'll continue to be where our focus is."

The Red Sox fly into Tampa to take on the division leaders and one of the surprises of the American League, if not all of baseball. After losing manager John Maddon and general manager Andrew Friedman and trading ace David Price to the Tigers, the Rays were expected by many to struggle this season.

Instead, they have stormed to a 41-33 record and a 1 1/2 game lead over the Yankees. The Rays have a middling run differential of just plus-16, only ranking fourth in their own division. Despite that, they are one of only five teams in all of baseball to have won at least 41 games so far. They have gone 6-4 in their last 10.

The probable cause of the Rays' mediocre run differential is the meager offense. They rank 25th in baseball in runs scored and have the 22nd-best team average of .244. The Red Sox, for the sake of comparison, rank 13th at .256.

Where the Rays have won their games is on the mound, boasting one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. With a team ERA of 3.28, the Rays are third best in baseball and tops in the American League. The pitching staff also leads all of baseball in opponent batting average at .232. The Red Sox are 25th at .264, and the major league average is .253.

As a team, the Rays have struck out more opposing hitters than any AL team other than the Indians. The impressive pitching staff is led by young flamethrower Chris Archer, who has struck out 123 hitters, placing second in the American League behind only Chris Sale of the White Sox.

"He just continues to go out and impress, especially against that lineup," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of his ace. "That's an extremely difficult lineup to have that many at-bats against. They just pick up on your mistakes. It doesn't matter how good your stuff is. They're going to get you eventually, and Arch just kept pumping fastballs and sliders and they just couldn't quite time him up."

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Friday: Rick Porcello (4-8, vs. Alex Colome (3-3, 4.50 ERA) Saturday: Wade Miley (7-6, 4.50 ERA) vs. Matt Andriese (2-2, 3.79 ERA) Sunday: Justin Masterson (2-2, 6.37 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (9-4, 2.01 ERA)

WHO'S HOT: RED SOX

-- In his past six games over the last week, Mookie Betts is hitting .462 with two home runs, two doubles, a triple and five RBIs. From May 23 on, Betts is hitting .336, which has improved his season average from .233 to .276.

-- Xander Bogaerts has been impressive lately as well. He is 8-for-22 in the past five contests, hitting .364 with five doubles and four RBIs.

-- The Red Sox youth brigade seems to have turned a collective corner offensively. Like Betts and Bogaerts, catcher Blake Swihart has hit well recently. In nine games since June 11, Swihart is batting .379 with a pair of doubles. His season average jumped from .208 to .248 over that span.

WHO'S HOT: RAYS

-- Logan Forsythe has mashed recently, hitting .476 in his past six games. He is 10-for-21 in that time, including a home run.

-- Kevin Kiermaier also has been hitting well. He, too, has 10 hits in the past six contests. He is hitting .385 over that span with a triple and three doubles.

-- In Chris Archer, the Rays have one of the best pitchers in the American League. He has a 0.95 WHIP and 2.01 ERA, both of which lead the AL. As mentioned earlier, he is second in the league in strikeouts.

WHO'S NOT: RED SOX

-- Utility man Brock Holt has sputtered at the plate since hitting for the cycle June 16. In the past week, Holt is hitting just .160, going 4-for-25.

-- Mike Napoli has continued to struggle at the plate, hitting an even .200 in the last six games while striking out seven times. This has been par for the course for Napoli, who is hitting just .203 on the season.

-- Designated hitter David Ortiz hasn't hit much for average recently, either. Ortiz is 5-for-24 for a .208 average in the past six games. Fortunately for the Red Sox, four of those hits were of the extra-base variety.

WHO'S NOT: RAYS

-- Asdrubal Cabrera hasn't had a great hitting week or season. The shortstop has hit .217 in the past six contests and owns a .206 average on the season.

-- In 18 at-bats in the past five games, Jake Elmore has only one hit, good for a .056 batting average. Elmore, playing for his fourth team in four major league seasons, has a .245 season average in 32 games. In a rout at the hands of the Nationals last week, the second baseman pitched one inning of mop-up duty and allowed one run on three hits. It was his second career appearance as a pitcher.

-- David DeJesus has hit only .167 in his last five games, going 3-for-18. In 60 games this season, the 35-year-old outfielder is hitting .291/349/.430.

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