By Matt Straub
Tonight, the Boston Red Sox begin a four-game set against a division rival with which they often end up fighting on the field as much as in the standings. No, they aren’t in the Bronx. They are in Tampa to take on the Rays, who have emerged as their fiercest rival in recent years.
Of course, the fans of the Sox and Yankees will always have a special level of hatred for each other’s baseball choices, but the players and people actually associated with the Red Sox and Rays dislike each other the way the Sox and Yankees fans do.
The teams have had eight on-field incidents since 2000 and several other wars of words and Twitter beefs (yes, the teams’ PR staffs take shots at each other on Twitter, and yes this is beyond stupid). In the stadiums, disparaging music is played while the other is taking batting practice on the road or when certain players come up to bat during games.
While the Red Sox and Yankees get the media hype of baseball’s biggest rivalries, the best chance of seeing a fight in a game involving teams from the East comes when the Sox and Rays get together. So while the teams are not going to be playoff contenders in the next month, any time the teams get together the games are going to be tense and potentially violent.
So with two teams who hate each other about to take the field, let’s break down the matchup which will be worth watching even if the teams are out of the race.
Boston (58-75, 14.5 GB of 2nd WC)
at Tampa Bay (65-69, 8 GB of 2nd WC)
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
Anthony Ranaudo (2-0, 4.50) vs. Chris Archer (8-6, 3.09)
Saturday, 7:10 p.m.
Allen Webster (3-2, 5.81) vs. Jake Odorizzi (9-11, 4.23)
Sunday, 1:40 p.m.
Clay Buchholz (5-8, 5.77) vs. Alex Cobb (9-6, 3.08)
Monday, 1:10 p.m.
Rubby De La Rosa (4-5, 3.81) vs. Drew Smyly (9-10, 3.31)
Playoff Picture: None really, but if the Rays get a sweep maybe they could convince themselves they have a very small chance of making a huge run. Boston’s season has been over since late July.
Momentum: Both teams are struggling mightily of late, so any momentum here would be negative for both sides. Boston had a decent showing in Toronto, but I don’t know the series was anything which could be considered momentum building. Tampa lost three of four to Baltimore early this week.
Who’s Hot: For Boston, David Ortiz is on fire (.369 in August) and gets to face Chris Archer tonight. The pair traded barbs after Archer didn’t like Ortiz’s bat flip after a homer earlier this season, and Ortiz has already been hit once on general principal by a Rays pitcher in David Price. The two spent the rest of that night trading beanballs, but Price is gone, so maybe some of Tampa’s hatred for Ortiz went with him. Dustin Pedroia is having a great August, putting to bed rumors of his demise. Ben Zobrist and James Loney are typical Rays, guys you don’t think of who are having good months while flying under the radar.
Who’s Not: Evan Longoria hasn’t done much in August, hitting just .259, and Yunel Escobar has also been bad, which are two reasons the Rays have fallen off the pace. For Boston, Mike Napoli has tried to kill my fantasy team as well as the Sox, hitting .194 this month. Christian Vasquez is a defensive wiz behind the plate but hasn’t shown much at the plate.
Looking Ahead: Boston takes on its “other” division rival, the Yankees, next.