Tuesday marks the start of a critical series in the AL East as the Boston Red Sox host the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have built a four-game cushion atop the division, putting the pressure on Boston to make up some ground. At home, the Red Sox are the favorites with a moneyline of -125 compared to Tampa’s moneyline of +105.
The Red Sox only have themselves to blame for the four-game deficit in the standings. They got swept in a three-game series in Tampa two weekends ago at the start of a truly dreadful stretch for them. The Red Sox have lost series to both the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays since then, winning just two of their last 11 games.
At the same time, the Rays have been heating up, winning four in a row. Tampa took full advantage of a trip to Baltimore over the weekend, sweeping the Orioles. The Rays are now 5-2 in August and winners of eight of their last 10 games, enabling them to get a little bit of a cushion at the top of the AL East.
Louie, Louie, Louie
Youngster Luis Patino will get the ball for the Tampa Bay Rays in the series opener Tuesday night. The 21-year-old has already made seven starts and two relief appearances for the Rays this season. He made one brilliant start against the Yankees in late July, tossing six shut-out innings, but has been otherwise unreliable since rejoining the Tampa rotation after the all-star break.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense has sputtered over the past week, although they did wake up with eight runs in a loss on Sunday in Toronto. Prior to that game, the Red Sox had been averaging just 2.1 runs per game in August. J.D. Martinez and Alex Verdugo have continued to produce amidst the team-wide slump, but everyone else in the lineup is still trying to find a groove.
Bring in the Lefty
With the Boston Red Sox offense struggling, the Red Sox will need Eduardo Rodriguez to deliver a quality start on Tuesday. Rodriguez has been something of a good-luck charm this year, going 8-6 over 21 starts despite a 5.33 ERA. Obviously, he’s accustomed to getting plenty of run support, although he’s pitched five or more shut-out innings in three of his last six starts, so he’s capable of pitching a gem.
Of course, the Rays are coming off a series in which they scored 31 runs over three games. Granted, Baltimore’s pitching is a big reason why that happened. But the Rays will try to build on that momentum when they get to Boston, having hit 10 home runs in their last five games.
This game should be more of a toss-up than the betting odds represent. Neither team should be overly confident on its starting pitcher, and while the Rays are the hot offensive team right now, the Red Sox undoubtedly have the more talented lineup.
But with the first-place Rays listed as underdogs, the value in this matchup is with picking Tampa Bay to stay hot, especially after the Rays swept the Red Sox recently.
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