The first 13 games of the 2022 season have been a mixed bag for the Boston Red Sox. The team is 6-7 and has managed to win just one series in their first four opportunities.
Boston will have yet another challenge on their hands this weekend as they travel into Tampa Bay to take on the Rays for a three game set. The Red Sox are just 2-4 against division opponents so far, so this series will be an important chance to turn the tide as we enter the final week of April.
Going into opening day, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the American League East would be anything less than a bitter dogfight. It’s two weeks into the season and that’s exactly what it’s been.
This makes the emphasis on being able to beat division foes that much more important with four teams in the AL East expecting to make it to October. It’s very early on but the Red Sox have not been up to the task against the AL East thus far.
After dropping two of three to the Yankees in their opening series, Boston just did the same against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway this week.
This series against the Rays feels like the Red Sox’ first “prove it” moment of the year. This is an excellent Tampa ballclub, but c’mon, we’re talking about the team with the 6th highest payroll in baseball facing the team with the 25th. The Red Sox’ front office is not spending $150 million+ to lose two out of three to the Rays.
Game one of the series will feature Michael Wacha on the mound for Boston, while Corey Kluber tows the rubber for Tampa.
There were questions about Wacha’s ability to pitch to success this season after posting three straight seasons with an earned run average over 4.70, however, it’s been so far so good for Wacha. The 30 year old righty has made two starts this season, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits over 9.1 innings pitched.
Friday night will be his first real test as a member of this club, though. With Saturday’s series probable starters yet to be announced, it puts that much more pressure on the Red Sox to start their road trip off with a win.
The offensive numbers definitely support the Rays in this matchup as Tampa has more runs scored, hits and runs batted in than the Red Sox. However, the Red Sox have an abundance of weapons at the plate in the form of guys like Trevor Story, Rafael Devers, and Xander Bogaerts, the latter of whom are respectively batting .291 and .354 so far in this young season
Sunday’s probables feature a southpaw duel between veteran Rich Hill for Boston and young lefty Shane McClanahan on Tampa’s side. It’s been a tough start for the 42 year old Hill as he’s allowed 7 runs and 11 hits over just 9 innings pitched thus far.
Learn more about Trevor Story’s projected impact for the Red Sox this season.
Pitching is Key to Victory for Boston
Manager Alex Cora needs to emphasize the importance of this series to his team if he hasn’t already. The Red Sox need to rack up as many wins as possible early on; especially against clubs like Tampa Bay.
Boston’s offense bombarded the Rays in last season’s American League Division Series, but nothing is a given in this game and the Red Sox’ pitching needs to do more to support the lineup.
Boston’s ability to pitch to success is going to be the difference between this weekend and that begins with a strong outing from Wacha. The Red Sox have a team ERA of 4.04 so far, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.
There should be no doubt in any Boston fan’s mind about this team’s ability to hit, but the offense can’t do everything. It’ll be incumbent on the battery to get it done against Tampa this weekend.