There certainly is a late September feeling to this July matchup. The Rays come in on a 5 game winning streak. They’ve taken 17 of their last 19 and 20 of their last 24. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have owned the Rays this season.
Boston boasts a 9-3 record against Tampa Bay this year. They started out with a 3 game sweep at Fenway Park in mid-April. Then took the final 2 in a 3 game set at Tropicana Field in May. In June the two teams matched up to play 6 games in 10 days. Tampa Bay managed to squeak out a game in each series there.
There have been a few classic moments in this season series; more for Boston than Tampa, obviously. In the first game of the season series, Shane Victorino knocked in Jacoby Ellsbury to give Boston a 2-1 walk off win. Two days later on Patriots’ Day, the Rays rallied in the top of the 9th to tie the game at 2, only to have Mike Napoli hit a double that score Pedrioa for Boston’s 2nd walk off win in 3 days.
Tampa’s 1st win in the season series moved Matt Moore to 7-0 on the year. Two days later the Rays led 3-1 going into the 9th inning when Fernando Rodney gave up a 3 RBI Double to Will Middlebrooks. The Rays ended up losing that game with the final score of 4-3.
In the first game of the season series in June the Rays, after trailing by 6, fought back to tie the game in the 8th. Boston scored 2 runs in the 10th which brought about another rally from Tampa to tie the game at 8-8. Evan Longoria was up with the bases loaded and 1 out. He could have been the hero, but instead grounded into a double play. The Rad Sox ended up winning the marathon 10-8 in 14 innings.
On June 18th, the Rays didn’t score until the 9th inning on a Kelly Johnson home run that tied the score at 1. However, Jonny Gomes hit a 2 run home run in the bottom of the 9th to give Boston their 3rd walk off win against the Rays.
It hasn’t been a pretty matchup for the Rays so far this season. If you’ve been under a rock for the last month, you may think that Tampa fans are crazy for wanting a matchup with Boston. Well, it’s finally here and in a little over an hour #1 will go up against #2 at Fenway Park.
The Rays have been on a torrid pace. After taking the final 2 games from Detroit at home, they went to Houston to win 3 out of 4. Then, they came home to sweep the White Sox in 3 games and the Twins in 4. Then they took 3 out of 4 from Houston again. After the All Star break, they went on the road to sweep Toronto.
The Red Sox are 6-4 in their last 10. However, they played an extremely long, difficult game against New York last night. Boston did end up taking the series from the NYY but it may have cost their bullpen. After going 11 innings and having to use 6 relievers last night, Boston will be looking for a strong performance from their starters in this series.
Boston is also hobbled by injuries right now. Andrew Miller and Andrew Bailey are gone from the pen and Buchholz is still not back from his injuries. However, there is plenty of offense in their bats. They are number 1 in the MLB right now in runs scored and 2nd in batting average.
The Rays come into this series trailing Boston by 1.5 games. A split would keep that number the same, but if Tampa could find a way to win 3 out of the 4, they would find themselves in 1st place in the mighty AL East. The Rays have done what they needed to do against the bottom dwellers in the league. Now, it’s time for them to step up and take down a quality opponent. The Red Sox have eaten Tampa Bay’s lunch all year. Will the Rays step up and assert themselves as the best team in the best division in baseball? I’d like to think so.
Matt Moore is on the mound against Brandon Workman. The game starts at 7:10. The winner sets themselves up nicely for the rest of the series. Hopefully, that will be Tampa Bay.