After losing two of three to Toronto, the Boston Red Sox (22-16, third place in the AL East, 2 games back) travel to St. Petersburg, Florida to face the Tampa Bay Rays (19-18, 4th place in the AL East, 4.5 games back) in a three-game series. The Red Sox are a woeful 2-8 in their last 10 games and have lost their last two in a row, while the Rays are 7-3 in their last 10 games and won 5 in a row.
STARTING PITCHERS: Matt Moore, David Price and Alex Cobb
Matt Moore (against John Lackey on Tuesday night’s opener) is still learning his craft, which is a scary thought. After a rookie 2012 season when he put up a 3.81 ERA/3.93 FIP/4.35 xFIP pitching line, Moore has followed that up with a line of 2.14 ERA/4.46 FIP/4.23 xFIP so far in 2013. However, there are some signs of trouble on the horizon for Moore. His walks per nine are up to an unhealthy 4.93, and his fastball velocity has dropped from 94-95 to 92-93. Also, Moore’s extremely low BABIP of .196 is most likely unsustainable, so it’s probably a just matter of time before his ERA rises.
David Price (facing Jon Lester) is not having his usual stellar season. So far in 2013 his pitching line is a substandard 4.78 ERA/4.02 FIP/3.36 xFIP. This is due to a rise in home runs allowed (8 already in 52.2 innings, but 16 in 211.2 innings pitched in 2012), a batting average against of .282 (his career mark is .229), and a quite unlucky BABIP of .338 (.280 for his career). Price is another Tampa Bay pitcher who has lost velocity on his fastball, going from 95-96 in 2012 to 92-93 in 2013. Price needs to regain his ace form if the Rays have any hope of contending in the AL East.
Alex Cobb (versus Felix Doubront in Thursday night’s finale) has been the best starter for the Rays in 2013. Posting a pitching line of 3.09 ERA/3.76 FIP/2.90 xFIP, Cobb has improved over 2012’s line of 4.03 ERA/3.67 FIP/3.54 xFIP. Notably, the 2013 version of Cobb is striking out more batters (from 7.00 to 8.13 per nine innings) and walking fewer (from 2.63 to 1.93 per nine) than in 2012. He’s also stranded 85.5% of the runners he has put on base, an impressive mark for a starter. The only real bad sign for Cobb this season is that he’s surrendered 7 homers in 46.2 innings pitched (a rate of 20.0% homers per fly ball).
1. Desmond Jennings, CF
2. Kelly Johnson, LF
3. Ben Zobrist, RF
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. James Loney, 1B
6. Luke Scott, DH
7. Ryan Roberts, 2B
8. Jose Lobaton, C
9. Yunel Escobar, SS
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks Evan Longoria (.396/.473/.750, .512 wOBA, 235 wRC, 1.2 WAR in 2 weeks, very nice), James Loney (.413/.449/.630, .459 wOBA, 200 wRC, go figure), Kelly Johnson (.361/.429/.611, .440 wOBA, 186 wRC), Matt Joyce (.290/.389/.548, .403 wOBA, 162 wRC), Luke Scott (.276/.405/.483, .386 wOBA, 150 wRC) and Ben Zobrist (.250/.413/.444, .382 wOBA, 147 wRC) were the hot hitters for the Rays, while Sean Rodriguez (.200/.250/.267, .232 wOBA, 45 wRC) and Jose Molina (.000/.043/.000, .030 wOBA, -93 wRC, wow), brought up the rear.
The Tampa Bay bullpen has picked up the slack for their starters. In the last two weeks, Josh Lueke (0.00 ERA/0.01 FIP/1.10 xFIP, .000 BABIP), Cesar Ramos (1.23 ERA/2.06 FIP/3.83 xFIP, .158 BABIP), Joel Peralta (2.70 ERA/3.61 FIP/2.96 xFIP, .375 BABIP), Kyle Farnsworth (3.00 ERA/1.01 FIP/2.94 xFIP, .500 BABIP) and Jamey Wright (3.38 ERA/2.82 FIP/2.82 xFIP, .182 BABIP) pitched well, while Jake McGee (14.29 ERA/6.19 FIP/3.64 xFIP, .474 BABIP) was extremely unlucky.
AND NOW FOR A MUSICAL INTERLUDE
RNP Brandon Gomes (right lat strain, placed on 15-day DL on May 10, retroactive to May 8), RHP Jeff Niemann (right shoulder surgery, p on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 28; placed on the 60-day DL on April 16) and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (recovery from September 2012 Tommy John surgery, placed on 60-day DL on March 31)
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
In the last two weeks the hot Red Sox hitters were Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.321/.387/.607, .422 wOBA, 165 wRC, so streaky), Shane Victorino (.343/.395/.543, .406 wOBA, 154 wRC) and Stephen Drew (.318/.367/.477, .365 wOBA, 126 wRC), However, David Ortiz (.205/.255/.432, .278 wOBA, 67 wRC, I bet CHB loved this), Jacoby Ellsbury (.228/.302/.281, .265 wOBA, 58 wRC) and Will Middlebrooks (.214/.250/.333, .255 wOBA, 51 wRC) haven’t hit well lately.
In the bullpen, nobody has pitched notably well or badly in the last two weeks. Clayton Mortensen (2.35 ERA/5.10 FIP/4.35 xFIP, .200 BABIP) has been lucky, while Koji Uehara (4.50 ERA/3.01 FIP/1.21 xFIP, .429 BABIP), Andrew Miller (6.23 ERA/3.70 FIP/1.37 xFIP, .444 BABIP), and Junichi Tazawa (7.71 ERA/6.65 FIP/2.94 xFIP, .500 BABIP) have been unlucky. It’s been a weird fortnight.
It’s usually the case that the Rays have great starting pitching but poor hitting. This year they are hitting well but their starting pitching is their weak point. Oh.