Well, that series with the Orioles could not have gone much worse. Coming into the series the Red Sox would have been hoping for a sweep. At the very least they would have been hoping to win the series 2-1. Instead, they lost the series and are now left heading to Tampa in a really tough situation. These next 14 days will shape the Red Sox season, be it for better or worse.
All eyes will be firmly on Price after his mini-implosion against the Orioles (4 IP, 6 ER, 2 HR, 4K). In that matchup, he was up against the extremely impressive John Means, and he wilted under the spotlight. Well, that spotlight only gets brighter in this outing as he goes up against the even more impressive Charlie Morton. With an 11-3 record and a 2.61 ERA, Morton is firmly in Cy Young contention.
For his part, Morton is also coming into this game off the back of a tough outing. He took his third loss in his last seven starts against the Yankees, allowing five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. However, the rest of the season has been, for the most part, really good. Out of 21 starts, he has allowed three earned runs or less in 18 of those starts. He had two mixed outings against the Red Sox earlier this season. In Boston, he shut them out through six innings, but in Tampa, he allowed five earned runs in six innings. The Red Sox will be hoping for a repeat of that home performance this time around.
Jalen Beeks should be a familiar face to the Red Sox organization. Having spent the best part of five years in the organisation they should know all about him. This will be just his second major league start, having been a starter throughout the minors, but transitioning to a relief role in 2018. This season he has a 2.78 ERA, with 56 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings. This season he has gone three or more innings 15 times, over four on six occasions, as long as 6 2/3 on one occasion.
The Rays rank 15th in the league this season in batting average, 12th in OBP, 19th in slugging and 17th in runs scored and home runs. Interestingly they have been slightly better on the road, ranking 17th in batting average, 18th in OBP and home runs, 22 in home runs and 23rd in slugging. This is the best place to pitch against the Rays, and with the Rays coming to Fenway next week the Red Sox need to take advantage.
The Red Sox have been marginally better hitters at home, but it the change is fairly negligible. However, against the Rays they have been somewhat of a disaster this season. In nine games they are hitting .212, with a .345 slugging percentage, eight home runs and 90 strikeouts in 63 innings.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Pitching: The Red Sox once again have three lefties on the mound. The Rays are middle of the league against left-handed pitching, so the Red Sox will be hoping for a successful series. Right now these three pitchers are the best bet the Red Sox have for a playoff series. They also need these three guys to provide the majority of their wins in the coming months. This series is going to tell us a lot about the direction of this team.
Hitting: Let’s take a look at who are the best Red Sox hitters on the road this season. Rafael Devers has 14 of his 20 home runs on the road, while hitting .322 and striking out just 37 times in 205 AB. J.D. Martinez is hitting .301 with nine home runs, and Brock Holt is hitting .328 but with just one home run. In contrast, Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting a woeful .202 on the road, but does have six of his 11 home runs away from Fenway Park.
The hope was that the Red Sox would be coming into this series with momentum. Instead, they are coming in off the back of a humiliating loss to one of the worst teams in the Majors. There are not many worse ways to head into a 14 game gauntlet against your two biggest divisional rivals.
It is not an understatement to say that the next fortnight is make or break. At the end of this not only could the Red Sox be out of the divisional race, but they could be in an uphill struggle for the wildcard spots as well. This series is one the Red Sox really need at least two wins from, and one of those wins will need to come off either Charlie Morton or Yonny Chirinos. It will be hard but the Red Sox are defending World Champions and now is the time to show it.