The A.L. East race is one of the most intriguing in baseball, and Sunday Night Baseball features a battle of the top two teams as the Boston Red Sox (63-43) take on the Tampa Bay Rays (63-42). The Rays will host this one at Tropicana Field, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:08 pm ET.
This will be the third of a three-game series. After winning the opener Friday, the Rays took over the A.L. East lead with a 9-5 victory on Saturday. Still separated by just a half-game for the division lead, these two know every game is important.
In the win on Saturday, the Rays got a shutdown performance from their bullpen after starter, Ryan Yarbrough, gave up five runs in five innings. The Rays’ offense bailed him out as they got home runs from Ji-Man Choi and Francisco Mejia.
In the loss, Nathan Eovaldi gave up six runs (five earned) in 5.1 innings. Xander Bogaerts hit his 16th home run while Bobby Dalbec hit his 11th.
The Rays are the favorites in this one playing at home. They are -142 to win while the Red Sox moneyline sits at +120. The runline features Boston +1.5 (-172), and the over/under for total runs is 8.5.
The Red Sox will send right Nick Pivetta to the mound on Sunday. On the season, he is 8-4 with a 4.51 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. He also has 120 strikeouts in 107.2 innings pitched this season.
The Rays will counter with southpaw Shane McClanahan (4-4, 3.93 ERA). In his last start, a 4-3 loss to the Yankees, he went six innings, allowing three runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out six.
By The Numbers
Offensively, these are two of the best in the league. The Rays rank fourth in scoring averaging 4.99 runs per game. The Red Sox rank one spot down at fifth, averaging 4.98 runs per game.
The Rays, once again, have the advantage on defense. In terms of scoring defense, they rank ninth, allowing opponents an average of 3.96 runs per game (3.19 at home). The Red Sox ranks 15th, allowing 4.48 runs per game.
Red Sox Look To Get Back On Track
After dropping the first two games of this series and four of their last five, the Boston Red Sox have seen their first-place spot in the A.L. East slip away. Now, trying to regain the lead, they will look to salvage the finale Sunday.
Leading the way for the offense is the third baseman, Rafael Devers. On the season, he is hitting .286/.358/.583 with a team-leading 27 home runs, 82 runs batted in, and 68 runs scored.
This will be the first time anyone on the Red Sox have seen Shane McClanahan pitch in their careers.
Rays Hope To Keep A.L. East Lead
The A.L. East has been one of the best divisions in all of baseball and should be a fascinating fight down to the wire. For the Rays, now that they have the division lead, they would love to create some separation with the Red Sox.
The Rays have been playing good ball as of late as they are 7-3 in their last 10. Furthermore, they are 33-20 at home, the best home winning percentage of any A.L. East team.
The offense has been fueled by a trio of big boppers. Brandon Lowe (22), Austin Meadows (20), and Mike Zunino (20) are the Rays’ home run leaders, and Randy Arozarena has 14.
Ji-Man Choi has also been one of their hottest hitters as of late, with a couple of home runs and four runs batted in over the last week.
Take The Rays To Win
As well as the Red Sox have played this year, this really comes down to recent trends. The Red Sox have really gone cold as of late while the Rays are surging.
While Shane McClanahan isn’t a Cy Young type pitcher, it will be interesting to see if the Red Sox can figure out the lefty, one they have never seen before.
Ultimately, take the Rays to pull out another victory and finish the sweep on Sunday.