The Tampa Bay Rays will aim to increase their lead atop the American League East when they face the resurgent Boston Red Sox on Monday afternoon in the opener of a three-game series in Boston.
Ace Chris Sale will be on the mound for the Red Sox.
Tampa Bay holds a 7 1/2-game lead atop the division standings following a series victory against Minnesota despite a 6-5 loss Sunday. The Rays are undefeated in their last six series – including a four-game home split versus Boston on Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 – and have won 15 of their last 19 games.
“We played well the first two games against Boston. I thought we still played well (the next two) against Boston, lost two, we got pitched really, really tough,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Encouraged that the guys came back (on Sunday), but frustrated nonetheless.”
Boston has returned to its winning ways following a rough stretch coming out of the All-Star break. After going 11-15 in their first 26 games after the break, the Red Sox have gone 13-9 to strengthen their footing in the playoff picture.
The Red Sox trail the Rays by eight games in the AL East but hold a three-game lead over Seattle for the second AL wild card. Boston is also within a half-game of the rival New York Yankees for the top wild-card spot.
On Sunday, the Red Sox fell short of a three-game sweep following the Indians’ 11-5 win. Boston nearly erased a six-run deficit and trailed 6-5 entering the ninth before a bullpen implosion resulted in five Indians’ runs.
“We’ve still got a game (Monday) – and the next day and the next day,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “You guys know how I feel about it. We don’t have to win 27 in a row. Other guys have to step up.”
Sale (3-0, 2.53 ERA) has yet to lose since making his return from Tommy John surgery in mid-August. The seven-time All-Star left-hander won his first three starts before a no-decision in last Wednesday’s win at Tampa Bay.
Boston held on for a 3-2 victory after Sale tossed six innings of two-run, six-hit ball with a pair of walks and three strikeouts. Sale threw a season-best 95 pitches while also logging a season high for innings pitched.
Over 21 career appearances (19 starts) against Tampa Bay, Sale has a 10-6 record with a 2.95 ERA. His 182 strikeouts against the Rays are his third-most against any single opponent.
Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (8-4, 4.50) is in line to start the series opener in Boston.
Yarbrough reversed his season-long trend of poor outings against the Red Sox in his last start on Aug. 31. He held Boston to two runs on five hits while striking out three and walking none over six innings in an 8-5 Rays’ win.
Prior to that, the 29-year-old allowed 16 earned runs in 12 innings in his three other appearances (two starts) versus Boston. Overall, Yarbrough is 4-3 with a 6.61 ERA in 15 games (eight starts) against the Red Sox.
–Field Level Media