The Tampa Bay Rays systematically defeated Boston in their series opener Monday night, and getting a little help in the bullpen gave them a boost in their important set with the Red Sox.
The two American League East clubs will meet again Tuesday in the second meeting of the four-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Rays improved to 43-18 against the AL East with the 6-1 victory on Monday, limiting the Red Sox to six hits, one a solo homer by Bobby Dalbec.
They also took advantage of opposing wildness by drawing seven walks and keeping an inning alive with a wild pitch on a strikeout. The Rays also were better defensively, ending the contest with a nifty double play to record their eighth straight win.
Tampa Bay improved to 30-11 since the All-Star break and is 35 games over .500 for the first time ever. The club is also on pace for 103 wins, which would eclipse the franchise record of 97 set in 2008.
While holding a slim 3-1 lead in the sixth inning Monday, the Rays replaced eventual winning pitcher Luis Patino with J.P. Feyereisen, who just came off the injured list after recovering from a biceps/shoulder injury.
Feyereisen responded with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Then fellow right-hander Pete Fairbanks — also recently off the IL (shoulder inflammation) — took the mound for the first time since July 28.
The fireballing Fairbanks struck out the side — the heart of Boston’s order — in the eighth, whiffing Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts. The third strikes were all were on fastballs of at least 97 mph.
“It’s good to have both of them back,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “They bring really good pitching to our bullpen. We’ve got a lot of good pitching down there, but these guys — you know, Pete’s special, J.P.’s special — when they’re right they can do some great things.”
Cash will send out Ryan Yarbrough (7-4, 4.57 ERA) on Tuesday. The left-hander threw a season-low 55 pitches his latest start, on Wednesday in Philadelphia. He yielded two runs on five hits in four-plus innings.
Holding an 0-1 mark against Boston this season in three outings (two starts), Yarbrough is 3-3 with a 6.99 ERA in 14 appearances — seven starts and seven relief appearances — vs. the Red Sox in his career.
While Boston didn’t announce a starter for the series’ second contest, manager Alex Cora will do what he can to put together a lineup to get back on the winning track after dropping two straight.
In addition to the Rays, COVID-19 has proven to be a recent obstacle for the Red Sox to overcome as well.
Relievers Matt Barnes and Martin Perez tested positive on Monday, joining position players Christian Arroyo and Enrique Hernandez. Reliever Josh Taylor is also sidelined for coming in close contact with those who have the virus.
“It’s something that we don’t control,” Cora said. “We’re fighting an invisible enemy and it just happened that (Enrique) tested positive. So they’ll be out for obviously an extended period of time.”
Right-handed relievers Raynel Espinal and Phillips Valdez, both 29, joined the team in Cleveland.
Espinal — a former New York Yankees prospect — made his major league debut by allowing two runs on two hits and a walk over two innings. He yielded Wander Franco’s two-run single in the eighth as the Rays rookie moved his on-base streak to 30 games.
Dalbec remained hot with the long ball. He is 6-for-13 (.462) with four homers, a double and nine RBIs in his past four games.
–Field Level Media
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