A late offensive spark Sunday at Camden Yards lifted the Tampa Bay Rays to their seventh-straight victory as their brief road trip concluded.
Back to back bombs on back to back pitches pic.twitter.com/1m7oiwmixK
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 29, 2021
The win gave the Rays a six-game advantage over the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East. The Rays return to Florida ahead of a seven-game homestand beginning with the Boston Red Sox Monday night. Boston enters the series eight games back of the division lead despite holding onto the second wildcard spot by a slim margin.
Keys to Victory
The X-factor in this series could very well be home-field advantage. Boston is only three games above .500 on the road, while Tampa boasts a formidable 41-23 home record. The Rays have won seven of 12 meetings with the Red Sox this season but are 5-1 against Boston at Tropicana Field.
Monday’s pitching matchup will feature Rays right-hander Luis Patino (3-3) and Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta (9-6). The two starters have nearly identical ERAs and WHIPs, but Pivetta’s 25 starts this year outnumber Patino’s mere 12. The good news for Tampa is Patino’s numbers improve drastically at home where he boasts a 2.10 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHIP. If Patino does run into trouble, the Rays will default to their bullpen, which leads all teams in ERA.
Although production on the hill will be a determining factor in the series, limiting these explosive offenses is much easier said than done. Tampa’s 5.4 runs per game ranks second to none in the league and Boston’s 5.1 runs per game is tied for third.
Players to Watch
Boston third baseman Rafael Devers belted his 31st and 32nd home runs Sunday in Cleveland and now trails just four players in the MLB in long balls this year. In one of only two career at-bats against Patino, Devers hit a solo shot. Sunday’s feat allowed Devers to surpass Red Sox legend Ted Williams in multi-homer games before turning 25.
Rafael Devers has recorded his 9th career multi-homer game, passing Ted Williams for 3rd-most by a Red Sox player before turning 25 years old (Jim Rice-12, Mookie Betts-10).
Devers has matched his career high in HR (32), with 30 games still to play.
— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) August 29, 2021
The Rays don’t have anyone in particular who jumps off the stat sheet, but balance has been the key to their success. No one in Tampa’s lineup is hitting .300, but a staggering 12 different batters have at least 30 RBIs this year. Rays’ second baseman Brandon Lowe — who leads the team with 30 homers — took Pivetta yard earlier this month.