After taking only one of three against the Orioles, the Boston Red Sox (69-85, 20.5 games back in the AL East) welcome the Tampa Bay Rays (83-70, 6 games back in the AL East, 3 games back in the AL Wild Card race) to Fenway Park for a two-game series. These will be the last home games for the Red Sox. The Rays have won five in a row and are 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Red Sox won their last game and are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
STARTING PITCHERS: David Price and Alex Cobb
David Price (versus Clay Buchholz) is one of those pitchers I wish I could find something negative to tell you but I can’t. Price’s triple slash pitching line is 2.58 ERA/3.19 FIP/3.21 xFIP, all excellent marks. Price has found an extra mile an hour on his fastball over last year (95.6 mph average this season, 94.7 mph in 2011). Price gets 52.5% of hitters to hit ground balls, an excellent mark. The only thing to complain about with Price is that his HR/FB rate is 11.0%, a touch over the 10% mark that you would desire. I bet he eats his Brussels sprouts, too.
Alex Cobb (against Jon Lester) is a decent young pitcher for the Rays. Owner of a 4.27 ERA/3.70 FIP/3.60 xFIP triple slash pitching line, Cobb’s problem is that he doesn’t miss many bats. Cobb’s batting average against is a not-so-good .260, contributing to a 1.29 WHIP and a 67.1% left on base mark, which isn’t great. However, SIERA likes him, with a rating of 3.54. So what do I know.
1. Desmond Jennings, LF
2. B.J. Upton, CF
3. Ben Zobrist, SS
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. Luke Scott, DH
6. Jeff Keppinger, 2B
7. Matt Joyce, RF
8. Carlos Pena, 1B
9. Jose Molina, C
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, the normally light-hitting Rays have started to find the hits. Leading the way has been Carlos Pena (.320/.514/.560, .449 wOBA, 194 wRC, yeah, I was surprised too), Jose Molina (.333/.385/.667, .442 wOBA, 189 wRC), Ben Zobrist (.326/.429/.478, .389 wOBA, 153 wRC), Desmond Jennings (.295/.404/.432, .389 wOBA, 153 wRC), Luke Scott (.308/.367/.500, .374 wOBA, 142 wRC) and Evan Longoria (.283/.358/.478, .353 wOBA, 128 wRC). Matt Joyce (.162/.326/.216, .247 wOBA, 54 wRC) is the only Rays’ regular starter that has been cold with the bat in the last two weeks.
In the Rays’ bullpen, closer Fernando Rodney (0.64 ERA/2.24 FIP/2.76 xFIP) has had an insane season, with 44 saves against only 2 blown saves. Also of note in the Rays bullpen are Jake McGee (2.09 ERA/1.87 FIP/2.27 xFIP), Wade Davis (2.57 ERA/2.91 FIP/3.36 xFIP) and Cesar Ramos (2.39 ERA/3.15 FIP/3.16 xFIP).
C Robinson Chirinos (concussion) and RF Brandon Guyer (recovery from May 2012 left shoulder surgery) are out for the season. LF Sam Fuld (right hamstring strain) and RHP Jeff Niemann (slight rotator cuff strain) are day-to-day.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
The Red Sox are merely marking time until the end of the season and are playing like it. They’re not even embracing the role of spoiler. I expected more from them, even in September. I was wrong.
The only hitters in the past two weeks to break the 100 line in weighted runs created were Jacoby Ellsbury (.400/.455/.500, .407 wOBA, 155 wRC) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.258/.361/.516, .374 wOBA, 133 wRC). The roster of suck is led by Cody Ross (.192/.236/.327, .250 wOBA, 47 wRC), Scott Podsednik (.242/.265/.303, .249 wOBA, 46 wRC), Mike Aviles (.259/.286/.296, .240 wOBA, 40 wRC), James Loney (.220/.273/.244, .235 wOBA, 37 wRC) and Ryan Lavarnway (.171/.205/.317, .223 wOBA, 28 wRC).
As for the starters, Clay Buchholz (0.64 ERA/3.32 FIP/4.99 xFIP) and Felix Doubront (2.79 ERA/2.80 FIP/3.86 xFIP) had good fortnights, although Buchholz got a bit lucky with such a low ERA. In the bullpen, Craig Breslow (0.00 ERA/3.11 FIP/4.28 xFIP), Rich Hill (0.00 ERA/0.61 FIP/2.07 xFIP), Scott Atchison (0.00 ERA/1.91 FIP/2.79 xFIP) and Andrew Miller (0.00 ERA/5.11 FIP/5.11 xFIP) shared the Blutarsky ERA Award. Junichi Tazawa (1.17 ERA/0.24 FIP/1.00 xFIP) and Mark Melancon (2.25 ERA/2.11 FIP/2.47 xFIP) also pitched well. On the other side of the ledger were Alfredo Aceves (22.09 ERA/6.65 FIP/6.30 xFIP), Vicente Padilla (27.00 ERA/19.61 FIP/4.49 xFIP) and the oh-my-goodness-will-you-look-at-those-horrendous-numbers Daniel Bard (135.00 ERA/39.11 FIP/43.49 xFIP).
The Rays are struggling to stay in the Wild Card race. The Red Sox could deliver a huge blow to those hopes. They probably won’t.