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Struggling Rays take on Red Sox Wednesday
By: Freddy Wander - StatFox
Published: 4/30/2014  at  4:09:00 AM
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at BOSTON RED SOX (13-14)

First pitch: Wednesday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Line: Tampa Bay -105, Boston -105, Total: 8.5

AL East rivals meet for their second game of three in a row on Wednesday night when the Rays visit the Red Sox.

Tampa Bay usually boasts the best depth at the starting pitching position while growing great arms in its minor league system. This year though, the team has not been able to overcome the injuries to Matt Moore (elbow), Alex Cobb (oblique) and Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) who are all currently on the DL. The Rays have now lost seven of their past nine contests, and their lack of pitching depth has been evident as they are allowing 7.4 runs per game in the seven defeats. While the pitching has struggled, 2B Ben Zobrist (.302 BA) has gone 9-for-26 (.346 BA) over the past six games with three doubles and three walks. Boston is in the midst of 13 straight games against AL East opponents and after its 7-4 victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, the club is 6-5 during this stretch. In Tuesday’s win, the Red Sox hit five doubles while going 5-for-15 with RISP and had a great pitching performance from starter John Lackey (8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K's). OF Shane Victorino went 4-for-4 with 2 RBI in the game, and is 6-for-19 with three doubles in four contests since returning from the DL. Toeing the rubber for the visiting Rays on Wednesday will be 25-year-old RHP Chris Archer (2-1, 4.11 ERA) who will be opposed by Boston 26-year-old Felix Doubront (1-3, 6.00 ERA). The road loss for Tampa Bay on Tuesday dropped its record away from home to a poor 4-9, but the Red Sox are just 6-8 in front of their home crowd. Since the start of 2012, Boston holds a 25-17 record (.595) in this matchup, including 13-9 at Fenway Park. Surprisingly, the Red Sox are just 38-47 (.447) in home games against divisional opponents since the start of 2012. On the other hand, the Rays are just 2-9 when playing against a team with a losing record this year.

Chris Archer is playing an important role for the Rays early on in this season as they attempt to get by without three of their starting pitchers from last year. Despite a pedestrian 4.11 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, the right-hander has pitched well so far, posting 25 strikeouts and just five walks over 30.2 innings while getting unlucky with batters having a .344 BABIP against him. Archer earned a no-decision in his last start on Friday facing the White Sox when he allowed four runs on nine hits but walked none and fanned four in his six innings. He has not done well in three career starts against Boston though, with a 1-2 record, 5.27 ERA and 1.98 WHIP. He has not gone more than five innings in any of the three starts, and has allowed 13 walks in just 13.2 frames against them. No player on the Red Sox has more than six at-bats against Archer, and recently demoted OF Daniel Nava is the only one with an extra-base hit against him. Middle-of-the-order hitters 2B Dustin Pedroia, DH David Ortiz and 1B Mike Napoi have combined to go 3-for-14 (.214 BA) in the matchup with 5 RBI and six strikeouts. Tampa Bay’s bullpen was very poor on Tuesday night, giving up six runs in just three innings while getting the loss, and is now 3-5 with a 4.25 ERA and 1.30 WHIP while saving 4-of-5 games on the year. These numbers have been brutal on the road, as the relievers are 1-2 with a 5.58 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Closer Grant Balfour (6.10 ERA, 4 saves) has not had too many save opportunities so far on the year, and blew his last one against the White Sox when he allowed two hits (1 HR), three walks and five runs. He now has more walks (9) than strikeouts (7) over 10.1 frames this season.

Felix Doubront’s days may be numbered as a member of the Red Sox starting rotation, as he put up an ERA of 4.86 in 2012 and 4.32 in 2013 while starting this year allowing 20 runs (16 ER) in just 24 innings of work. He’s also struggled with his control, giving up 11 free passes so far compared to just 16 strikeouts. Doubront took on the Yankees in his last start, getting through just 2.2 innings and allowing seven runs (3 ER) on six hits (1 HR) and two walks while striking out only one. He has done well against Tampa Bay over eight career starts though, going 2-3 (5-3 team record) with a 3.25 ERA (1.40 WHIP), but getting a loss in each of his past two outings. In those two games, Doubront allowed five runs on 14 hits in 11.2 frames with nine strikeouts and five walks. Giving him the most trouble on Tampa Bay has been 3B Evan Longoria (.286 BA) as he is 6-for-17 (.353) against him with three doubles, two RBI and four walks. Both SS Yunel Escobar (6-for-20, 2 walk) and OF Wil Myers (3-for-8, 3 RBI) have done well in this matchup as well. Meanwhile, 1B James Loney (2-for-11, 2 RBI, 2 K’s) and 2B Ben Zobrist (5-for-20, 2 RBI, 6 K’s) have been hot for the team lately, but have had their troubles against the lefty. Boston has one of the best bullpens in the league, going 4-3 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.33 WHIP this year, while converting 7-of-8 save chances. Koji Uehara (0.93 ERA, 6 saves) has been nearly unhittable this season, and is perfect in six save opportunities while having an amazing 17:1 K-to-BB ratio over 9.2 frames.

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