The Rays are 20 games under .500 as of Sunday and have no chance of reaching the postseason, but there are some young players who are giving Tampa reasons to hope for a brighter future and who could make this series interesting. Kevin Kiermaier has developed into one of the best defensive outfielders in the MLB, and newly-acquired Corey Dickerson has added some much-needed power to this lineup. They’re accompanied by veterans like Evan Longoria to provide the consistency that any prospective playoff team would need now and in the next season. Tampa’s pitching staff is one of the youngest in the MLB, and they have shown that this year. Ace Chris Archer experienced a drop-off in production, and the rest of the young arms, with the exception of Jake Odorizzi, have struggled.
The Red Sox have held first place in the AL East for longer than any other team this season, but that position has never been guaranteed. Their record is a mirror reflection of the Rays’, but that won’t necessarily help them against a young ace like Chris Archer. Holding the division lead is vital for Boston because, should they fall to second or third, they could potentially miss out on a wild card and, therefore, the playoffs altogether. Boston is 8-7 against the Rays this season, and 2-3 in Tampa. The Red Sox lineup has had more offense than ever, but it’s their improved pitching staff that has given them the label of “elite.” David Price is still the team’s indisputable ace, but Rick Porcello’s 20-4 record has really turned heads this season. If their rotation can continue its recent dominance, the Red Sox will be very hard to beat.
27 year-old Chris Archer will make the start for the Rays on Friday. His 4.05 ERA is his highest since his rookie year, but he also has a chance to win the strikeout crown with his 221 prior to this start. Archer’s 8-18 record is mostly a product of his team, but his talent is still ridiculous. The Red Sox have given Archer fits in 2016. He has a 0-4 record and a 6.65 ERA against Boston, and has allowed a .310 batting average to Red Sox hitters. Archer will look to improve upon his mark of 17 runs allowed in 16 innings to his divisional rival on Friday.
Drew Pomeranz, who came in from the Padres during the All-Star Break, will start for Boston on the road on Friday. He’s had an up-and-down season, but still holds a 3.25 ERA and a 10-12 record. His ERA has actually been better away from home, where he allows only 2.80 runs per nine innings. Pomeranz is 0-1 in two starts against Tampa Bay this year, where he’s given up five runs in 12 and two-thirds innings. He’s lost three of his last four, so he’ll try to get back on track against the Rays.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Though Pomeranz is inconsistent and the Red Sox are on the road, it’s a no-brainer to take Boston to win, perhaps even by 9-4. This series will be too important for them and Archer has yet to figure them out.