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MLB Boston Red SoxTampa Bay Rays

Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview

Red Sox and Ray Start a 4 Game Set Tonight

Kim Klement-USA Today Sports

The Boston Red Sox just took two out of three from the Toronto Blue Jays and now get set for a four-game series against their division rival Tampa Bay Rays. Tensions have been high between these two squads all season, and the last time they squared off Rays pitcher Chris Archer had some words for David Ortiz after he “pimped out” a home run. This should make for another eventful series, and here are some things to note before it gets started.

Probable Pitching Match-ups:

Friday Game 1: Anthony Ranaudo (2-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (8-6, 3.09 ERA)

Saturday Game 2: Allen Webster (3-2, 5.81 ERA) vs. Jake Odorizzi (9-11, 4.23 ERA)

Sunday Game 3: Clay Buchholz (5-8, 5.77 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (9-6, 3.06 ERA)

Monday Game 4: Rubby De La Rosa (4-5, 3.81 ERA) vs. Drew Smyly (9-10, 3.31 ERA)

This series is a battle of the AL East basement with the Rays sitting in fourth in the division and the Red Sox in dead last. Boston comes to Tampa after losing a disappointing nine of their last 11 games. During that span the offense has been spotty, as always, and the pitching has been miserable with a 6.02 ERA. The Red Sox are 5-7 against the Rays this season, and they face some tough pitchers in this four-game set. Game 1 will really set the tone with Archer on the mound to pitch against Ortiz and company for the first time since their exchange of words back on July 27. It should be interesting, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some pitches inside when Big Papi steps into the box.

Speaking of Ortiz, the Red Sox’ designated hitter is on fire right now despite missing two games in Toronto due to foot soreness. In his last 11 games, he is batting .514 with four home runs, 10 RBIs and a 1.544 OPS. In the series finale against the Blue Jays, Ortiz was 2-for-4. I expect that his success at the plate will continue. He’s been the one positive in the Red Sox lineup all season and has already slugged as many home runs this year (30) as he did with last year’s World Series championship team. This will be the first chance for Yoenis Cespedes to have a hand in the rivalry, and I expect him to continue swinging the bat well. I think it’s important for Allen Craig to progress in getting his feet back underneath him after coming off the disabled list. He hit his first home run in a Red Sox uniform this week, so hopefully it was the first of many.

The Rays are coming off of a 1-3 series loss to the division leading Orioles, and in the last 12 games they have posted a 4-8 record. One bright spot has been the bat of Tampa’s star, third baseman Evan Longoria, who hit his 17th home run of the season in a 5-4 loss to Baltimore last night. He has racked up nine RBIs in the last seven games, so look for him to stay hot.

The most important thing for Boston if they want to have a chance in this series is that the pitching shows up. Archer is no slouch for Tampa Bay with a 3.09 ERA. Neither is Cobb or Smyly. They generally deliver solid starts for the Rays, and the Red Sox need the same from their rotation.

Ranaudo was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to make the start tonight and has an unbeaten record in the majors this season. With a 4.50 ERA he’s certainly hittable for opposing teams. Game 2 could be the most winnable game with Boston facing Odorizzi. Back on May 31, the Red Sox chased Odorizzi for five runs through just 3.1 innings. For Game 3 I have no idea which Clay Buchholz we’re going to see, but if it’s the bad one that game could get out of hand quickly. The Game 4 match-up should be more of a pitcher’s duel at least, between De La Rosa, who I believe is the best Red Sox pitcher right now, and Smyly.

With all this in mind I like a series split between Boston and Tampa Bay.

Spencer German is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Spencito6. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google