The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox are still looking to establish their identity as they prepare for the start of a two-game series Tuesday at St. Petersburg, Fla.
Two American League East heavyweights in recent years, the Rays and Red Sox have scuffled out of the gate, slotting fourth and fifth, respectively, in the division standings. Both 10 games into the 60-game season, Tampa Bay and Boston already have a lot on the line this week.
The No. 1 item on the list: redemption. The Rays enter the series following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, who went 54-108 a year ago. The Red Sox can relate: They lost two of three to the Orioles in their season-opening series.
“Right now you can point to any aspect of our game, but we’re not doing a good job of being ourselves, myself included,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said after the Rays’ 5-1 loss Sunday.
“We have to start getting out that positive vibe with the guys. (Sunday) there’s no doubt that it was flat, but no excuses. We need to find ways to start winning games.”
The Rays have lost five straight overall after a 4-1 start. They turn to right-hander Charlie Morton (0-1, 8.00 ERA) on Tuesday.
The Red Sox also enter in a slump, having been swept by the New York Yankees in a three-game series over the weekend. Boston carried a one-run lead into the eighth inning of the series finale Sunday night before the bullpen collapsed in an eventual 9-7 defeat.
“Anytime you lose a game like this is tough,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “It’s tough, too, when you have it set up like you want to.”
With a league-worst starter ERA of 6.69 entering Monday’s off day, Boston has rarely had things set up the way it would like. The team has its one bright spot in the rotation, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 2.45 ERA), set to take the mound opposite Morton.
While the Red Sox have struggled in the pitching department, the Rays’ woes have mostly come on offense. The team is batting a collective .210, with new additions Manuel Margot (3-for-30), Hunter Renfroe (6-for-33) and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (6-for-30) among those scuffling at the plate.
“I feel bad for our pitching staff,” Renfroe said. “Nobody wants to let those guys down because of how good they are.”
Morton makes his third start still looking to find the velocity on his fastball, which is averaging nearly 3 mph less than it did last season. The 36-year-old held the Atlanta Braves to two runs over five innings his last time out.
Morton sports a 5-1 record with a 4.09 ERA in nine career starts versus the Red Sox.
Eovaldi, meanwhile, has impressed out of the gate, leading Boston in two of its three wins on the season. The right-hander gave up two runs on eight hits over five innings in going toe to toe with New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom in his last start.
“Having a big win against deGrom, it’s a big deal for us,” Eovaldi said after the game. “We were able to rally together.”
Eovaldi owns a 2-4 record with a 5.45 ERA in eight career appearances (six starts) against the Rays.
–Field Level Media