Red Sox at Rays
Xander Bogaerts struggled through a difficult season in 2017 in large part because he played through a lingering wrist injury, but it appears the Tampa Bay Rays are getting a taste of what he is capable of when he is healthy. Boston's red-hot 25-year-old shortstop attempts to cap off an incredible four-game series Sunday when the visiting Red Sox eye a series victory over the Rays.
Bogaerts is 8-for-12 through three games in 2018 and has multiple extra-base hits in every contest, making him only the second player in the last 100 years (Adrian Gonzalez, 2015) to accomplish that feat over the first three games of a season. The two-time Silver Slugger Award winner padded those totals in Saturday's 3-2 victory, going 3-for-4 with an RBI double and solo homer. Hector Velazquez will try to be the latest Boston starting pitcher to baffle Tampa Bay after Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello combined to allow one earned run over 18 1/3 innings through the first three games of the series. The Rays matched their hit total from the first two contests (eight) in Saturday's defeat, getting five of them from Carlos Gomez (2-for-4, solo home run) and Matt Duffy (3-for-4).
TV: 1:10 p.m. ET, NESN (Boston), FS Sun (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox RH Hector Velazquez (2017: 3-1, 2.92 ERA) vs. Rays RH Jacob Faria (2017: 5-4, 3.43)
With three projected starters beginning the season on the disabled list, Velazquez will attempt to build on his success in 2017, transitioning from a non-roster invitee who had spent the previous seven years in the Mexican League. The 29-year-old was much more successful as a reliever, however, going 3-0 and did not allow an earned run in five appearances (he was 0-1 with a 5.02 ERA in his three starts). Over his final five outings last season, Velazquez allowed a total of six hits over 11 scoreless frames.
Faria posted a 4-0 record and 2.11 ERA in six turns prior to the All-Star break last season before going 1-4, 4.47 in 10 appearances (eight starts) following the Midsummer Classic. The California native surrendered 13 runs (11 earned) on 19 hits and 12 walks over 19 1/3 exhibition frames but capped off his spring by tossing six no-hit innings Tuesday. Boston hitters on the 40-man roster went 3-for-29 with no extra-base hits last year against Faria, who yielded one run in two games (one start) spanning nine innings against the Red Sox.
1. Bogaerts didn't connect on his first homer last season until May 25 and needed 28 games to hit five doubles.
2. Sunday will mark the 564th straight game the Rays' starting pitcher is below 30 years of age, the longest such streak in the majors.
3. Boston closer Craig Kimbrel hasn't allowed a hit to the last 34 Tampa Bay batters he has faced.