Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
TAMPA – The Boston Red Sox have been playing as well as any team in the majors of late and are guaranteed of at least being tied for first place in the American League East at the All-Star break. The Tampa Bay Rays, who host the Red Sox on Thursday for the opener of a four-game series that closes the first half, are creeping up on second place in the East but come home with an empty feeling after a 4-4 road trip.
The Rays gave themselves a chance at a winning trip by holding off the Chicago Cubs 6-5 on Tuesday but could not muster the same offensive surge while falling 7-3 in the finale of the two-game interleague series. Logan Morrison, who is up for the final spot on the AL All-Star team and made some waves over the long weekend by suggesting he should have been asked to participate in the Home Run Derby, remained hot with two hits in Wednesday’s loss and has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games. Boston was full of hot hitters before managing a total of three hits in an 8-2 setback at Texas on Wednesday that snapped its six-game winning streak. Trying to keep the Red Sox’s attack down will be promising rookie Jacob Faria, who takes the mound for Tampa Bay on Thursday opposite All-Star Chris Sale.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, NESN (Boston), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox LH Chris Sale (11-3, 2.61 ERA) vs. Rays RH Jacob Faria (3-0, 2.23)
Sale is a strong candidate to get the start for the AL in Tuesday’s All-Star Game and leads the majors with 166 strikeouts. The Florida Gulf Coast product breezed through seven scoreless innings at Toronto on Saturday, scattering four hits and striking out 11 in his third straight win. Sale made two starts against Tampa Bay earlier in the season and won both while yielding four runs and five hits with 24 strikeouts in 14 frames.
Faria recorded a quality start in each of his first five major-league outings but was kept out of the win column in the last two. The 23-year-old has registered 35 strikeouts in 32 1/3 overall innings and did not walk a batter while holding Baltimore to two earned runs in 6 2/3 frames on Friday. Faria is making his third home start and is 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA so far at Tropicana Field.
1. Rays CF Mallex Smith went 4-for-4 on Wednesday and is 7-for-13 with five runs scored in his last three games.
2. Boston RHP Matt Barnes has not allowed a hit in any of his last five appearances, totaling 5 2/3 innings.
3. Tampa Bay INF Brad Miller (groin) is on a rehab assignment and could return to the team during the series this weekend.