The Tampa Bay Rays are on a roll, winning the first two games of their current series against the New York Yankees to move within four games of the Bronx Bombers.
The Rays face a three-game series with the bottom-placed Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field.
|What||Boston Red Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays, Game One of Three|
|Where||Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida|
|When||16:10 EDT, Monday September 5th 2022|
|How to watch||NESN, Bally Sports Sun; MLB.TV, bet 365's live streaming service|
Rays pitcher Corey Kluber had an excellent night in Tampa's 2-1 win over the Yankees on Saturday. The 36-year-old right-hander pitched beyond the sixth inning for the first time since he completed a no-hitter for the Yankees in May, 2021.
The Rays management did this so that Kluber could be fit for September and, more importantly, October. With seven scoreless innings, Kluber delivered a 2-1 win over the Yankees for Tampa, their fifth consecutive victory and 16th win in their last 20 games. Tampa is pushing its heat towards New York.
Kluber carried the Rays even closer to the Yankees, who are 27-36 since a 52-18 start, in the American League East Division race.
The AL Wild Card-leading Tampa are now only four games back in the Division race (three in the loss column), their smallest deficit since May 11th.
They have gained four-and-a-half games over the past six days, turning a race that seemed over months ago into an appetising watch.
Tampa Bay Rays team manager Kevin Cash spoke to Bally Sports Sun after the win: "We're gonna need to lean on these guys in September. These are big series, big pitches, big moments.
"We're able to push him (Kluber) out for one extra inning, that takes a lot of confidence to be able to do that.
"You marvel at what he's done. He's just had a lot of success against the Yankee lineup. They know him well having played there last year, they know how he attacks guys and when he executes like that, he's tough."
The Red Sox are headed for their fourth last-place finish in the AL East since 2012 and fifth if you included the season-short 2020. During that period also, they have made five postseason appearances and won two World Series. Such swings of change.
Their injury list this season has been critical, they haven't really been able to call upon Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi, two of their star pitchers. Boston received some more bad news as Tanner Houck is out for the rest of the 2022 season to undergo back surgery.
Nick Pivetta became the latest injury concern when hit by a comebacker in his calf at Fenway Park. Manager Alex Cora seemed optimistic that Pivetta wouldn't miss a start. However, Cora then told reporters that it seemed possible that Pivetta may have his next start pushed back.
Then there is Eric Hosmer, acquired on July's trade deadline from the San Diego Padres, he's been dealing with back inflammation. The first baseman still hasn't resumed baseball activities, which doesn't bode well for the Red Sox, who have struggled at first base since they traded for Hosmer in the first place.
Despite the injury concerns, there was one small crumb of comfort for the Red Sox fans as they saw young pitcher Brayan Bello pick up his first win. It took eight weeks and eight appearances but he finally got there on a day when the Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers on Saturday night, 5-3.
The 23-year-old has been pitching well but couldn't seem to get over the line.While the Red Sox have fallen out of contention for this season, one of the benefits has been the chance to get a good look at Bello, who will continue to pitch every fifth day for the rest of the season.
Bello has the chance to convince the front office and Cora that he belongs to the rotation next season.
Speaking to NESN, Cora said about Bello: "I believe as far as executing the game plan, that was his best. He was able to use his front-door sinker to lefties, and just from the guy that threw sinkers and changeups the first outing against Tampa Bay to this guy, you see it, and we're very proud of him."