Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox

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What seemed as a dull rivalry earlier in the season has heated up astronomically after the Red Sox flew down to St. Petersburg last week.

The little spat between Matt Joyce and John Lackey, which Rays manager Joe Madden stimulated further with his comments on Lackey’s professionalism, rekindled the roughness of the Red Sox-Rays rivalry. Whether that event will prompt further tit-for-tat exchanges will be worth watching.

The Red Sox have dominated the Rays so far in 2012, only losing to the ball club from the gulf twice. The Rays sit near the bottom of a jam-packed American League East with a 36-33 record, while the Red Sox hold onto a two game lead over the Baltimore Orioles at the top.

Make no mistake: the past is the past. The Rays could easily sweep the series to climb closer to AL relevancy. The Red Sox will want to put a deafening blow on the Rays this week, and the double-header on Tuesday will be a good place to start.

Series: 3 Games vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Fenway Park, Boston, MA)

Probable Starters (Career vs. Opponent):

April 18, 1:05 EDT
RHP Chris Archer (1-1, 5.00 ERA) vs. RHP Alfredo Aceves (3-1, 2.27 ERA)

April 18, 7:10 EDT
RHP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, -.– ERA) vs. LHP Félix Doubront (2-1, 3.86 ERA)

April 19, 7:10 EDT
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (3-2, 4.26 ERA) vs. RHP Ryan Dempster (3-4, 3.38 ERA)

Storylines:

José Iglesias’s 17-game hit streak, the longest active streak in the majors, has caused a lot more sideline cameras to focus on the young shortstop. The more important thing to watch, though, is whether he’s on the field at all. John Farrell batted Iglesias second in Sunday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles, which could be an indicator of where Iglesias ranks on the team. With Stephen Drew, Dustin Pedroia, and Will Middlebrooks as the starters, Iglesias will likely move around the diamond to get his plate appearances.

After a tough week of pitching performances last week, the three starters going for the Red Sox – Aceves, Doubront, and Dempster – may have had the best three performances in recent weeks. That is sort of sad to say, considering Doubront’s start last Thursday against the Orioles only lasted 4 2/3 innings and he allowed three earned runs. On the brighter side, Aceves has not allowed more than one run in each of his last two starts, and Dempster has gone at least seven innings in three of his last for starts. The three arms need to keep some magic going in order for the Red Sox to remain atop the AL East.

Over the off-season, the Rays made another blockbuster trade involving one of their veteran pitchers, James Shields. In return, they received Wil Myers and Jacob Odorizzi, both of whom will appear in this series. The Rays added Myers to their roster as part of this double-header, and was MLB.com’s No. 3 prospect coming into the 2013 season. Myers hit .286 with 14 home runs and 57 runs batted in in AAA-Durham before his call-up.

Enjoy the series! And thanks for reading!

(Photo Courtesy of Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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Davis VanOpdorp

Davis VanOpdorp

Davis VanOpdorp

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