|3:10 PM PT4:10 PM MT5:10 PM CT6:10 PM ET18:10 ET22:10 GMT6:10 3:10 PM MST5:10 PM EST5:40 PM VEN2:10 UAE (+1)5:10 PM CT, March 31, 2018
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida Attendance: 17,838
Rays forced to go to bullpen early vs. Red Sox
Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
- Boston won the final three series between these teams in 2017, outscoring the Rays 47-19 and limiting their hitters to a .191 average in eight games. Chris Sale started three of those games, allowing four runs and striking out 30 in 19.2 innings.
- The Red Sox went 16-8, including 8-1 on the road, in their last 24 regular-season games of 2017 en route to their second consecutive AL East title. They enter this game having won on Opening Day in each of the last three seasons.
- The Rays hit a franchise-record 228 home runs in 2017. However, 75 percent of their home run production from last year, including the top-four individual home run hitters, did not return to the 2018 roster. Kevin Kiermaier (15) and Wilson Ramos (11) are the only returnees who reached double-digit home runs last season.
- Chris Sale led the majors with 308 strikeouts in 2017, the most by any pitcher in a season since Randy Johnson (334) and Curt Schilling (316) in 2002. He was the first Red Sox pitcher to top 300 Ks since Pedro Martinez in 1999 (313). Sale is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three Opening Day starts and 5-0 with a 1.73 ERA in six season-opening starts.
- Chris Archer's 734 strikeouts over the past three seasons are fourth-most in MLB behind Max Scherzer, Sale and Corey Kluber. He has not fared well against Boston in his career, going 2-12 with a 5.45 ERA (second-worst ERA against any opponent).
- In his 2017 rookie season, Andrew Benintendi hit .400 with a .538 OBP in two-out situations with runners in scoring position. Those numbers ranked third and tied for fourth in MLB, respectively, and both rank among the top five for Red Sox rookies in the last 40 years (minimum 25 PA for all ranks).
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For two games, the Tampa Bay Rays have played it close with the defending American League East champion Boston Red Sox, rallying to win Thursday's opener and falling 1-0 to a David Price gem on Friday.
But if there's a major difference between the two squads, it can be seen Saturday night. Boston turns to right-hander Rick Porcello, two years removed from a Cy Young Award, and Tampa Bay is already turning to a bullpen day.
The Rays have lost three pitchers to major elbow injuries since February, with top prospect Brent Honeywell and another promising young pitcher in Jose DeLeon undergoing Tommy John surgery. Then last week, Nathan Eovaldi, projected as the No. 3 starter, required his own elbow surgery to repair loose bodies in the joint.
That means Saturday's game is a bullpen day, with right-hander Andrew Kittredge making his first major league start and trying to throw as many effective innings as possible. Kittredge pitched well in relief last year, with a 1.76 ERA in 15 games, but none of those outings were longer than 1 2/3 innings or 27 pitches.
"I like the way he threw the ball in spring training. I think he can go in there and provide some length for us and get us to where we need to get the bullpen going," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash. "In the next month, we're probably going to have multiple guys in that slot."
The Rays had already decided to go with a four-man rotation, thanks to ample off days in the opening stretch of the season. They'll be counting on unproven pitchers like Kittredge, as well as rookie right-hander Yonny Chirinos, who is likely to make his major league debut Saturday in relief. Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough may make his major league debut as well.
Porcello wasn't close to his 2016 dominance last season -- he went 11-17 with a 4.65 ERA on the year, with the opposition batting .286 against him after hitting just .230 the previous season. He struggled against the Rays, going 2-4 in six starts despite a 3.93 ERA. For his career, he's a solid 12-8 with a 3.25 ERA in 23 starts against Tampa Bay.
The Rays need to find consistency in an overhauled batting order -- they've scored in just one of their first 18 innings and they've been held to four hits in each of their first two games, albeit against two dominant lefties in Boston's Chris Sale and Price.
Kittredge has made 11 starts in his minor-league career, including two with Triple-A Durham last season. He's unlikely to last long enough to be eligible for his first major league win, but Saturday should be a chance for the Rays to test their young new options on the front end of their bullpen, with the hopes of setting up a save situation for the proven back end, including closer Alex Colome.
Colome earned a save in the opener. He led the American League with 47 saves in 2017.
Updated March 30, 2018