The start of the Rays-Red Sox series appeared to be set up for the Rays to get a split, at minimum, at Fenway. Both Matt Moore and David Price had performed well against Boston this season, while the Rays had hit Jon Lester well. Game Two starter John Lackey may as well have been throwing batting practice considering how ineffective he had been against Tampa Bay. On paper, this appeared to be an excellent matchup for the Rays.
However, that is why these games are played on the field, instead of by extrapolating results from statistics. Following a number of defensive miscues that could have been played to ‘Yakety Sax’ in Game One and a number of missed opportunities against Lackey, the Rays find themselves in yet another situation where they have three must win games.
Now, the Rays may be facing their biggest challenge as they look to hold on for their playoff lives. Clay Buchholz, who had been an early contender for the Cy Young Award before getting injured, gets the start in Game Three. While Buchholz has been great all season for the Red Sox, he has been even better against the Rays. In thirteen innings against the Rays, He has yet to allow a run, giving up ten baserunners while striking out seventeen batters. Meanwhile, Rays starter Alex Cobb has struggled against Boston, with a 5.16 ERA with a 1.500 WHiP this season.
On paper, this appears to be a game that the Rays may be in trouble. Yet, given how the Rays appeared to have an advantage in the first two games with their pitching matchups, the statistics may not matter at all. Both teams still have to play the game, and the Rays have been battle tested in must win games.
Just like last week, the Rays find themselves with three must win games. Now, they need to shake off their struggles in Boston and rekindle the magic from their run the previous week. Just like the Red Sox reversed their history against Moore and Price, the Rays need to do the same against Buchholz.