Tuesday is the middle game of a three-game set from Tropicana Field in Tampa, Fla., as the Red Sox take on the Rays. The Red Sox won the first game of the series 9-4, including a seven-run third inning, to even the season series at five games apiece. It is going to take either a super-hot run or a New York collapse for Boston or Tampa Bay to win the American League East, as they are 10 and nine games out, respectively.
However, the race for the Wild Card in the AL is heating up. Cleveland and Oakland currently hold the spots, but Tampa Bay is a game behind, and Boston is two. This is prime time for the Red Sox to make up ground if they’re going to make a push, with this series and their next THREE series coming against either the Rays or Yankees.
For the Red Sox, Chris Sale will take the mound for his 21st start of the season. Sale had an incredibly rough start to the season, losing his first five decisions before finally notching a win. While the record hasn’t come back around quite yet, as he’s currently 4-9, he has been pitching more like the Chris Sale we have all come to know. In his last 14 starts, he has given up more than three runs only three times.
The one thing you think about when you think about Sale is unparalleled strikeout numbers, and that has been the case over this stretch as well. In those aforementioned last 14 starts, he has had double-digit strikeouts in 10 of those games. The only person who has put up nearly as many strikeouts as Sale this season is Gerrit Cole, who has literally been setting strikeout records (second-fewest innings to reach 200 Ks).
Sale still has room for his peripherals to get better as well, even with how good he has been pitching. His BABIP is still above league average at .314, meaning that when batters aren’t whiffing and actually making contact, they are getting a bit lucky. Sale’s ERA sits currently at 4.05, but his FIP is 3.22, and his xFIP is at 2.97, which are more in line with his career averages.
Yonny Chirinos will take the bump for the Rays and make his 15th start of the season. Chirinos is 8-5 so far this year with a 3.29 earned run average. The absolutely amazing thing about Chirinos thus far in 2019 is that his home and road splits are almost identical. With the exception of his ERA being a tad higher on the road, it seemingly doesn’t matter where he pitches. Runs, home runs, walks, OBP, SLG, are all almost exactly the same.
That is deadly to have in October, if the Rays can get there, going into hostile ballparks to pitch in the playoffs. Some people can’t handle it, Johnny Cueto in Pittsburgh for the 2013 Wild Card Game comes to mind.
Chirinos is having the roughest month of his season in July, going 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA so far. I figured it was a matter of time before Boston got on the right path, even with their pitching. That lineup is too good not to. Tampa Bay is a middle-of-the-road hitting team, which is not nearly good enough against Sale. Take the Red Sox.