Fri Jul 30 3:03am ET
The front offices of the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will spend most of Friday pondering various trade scenarios.
Then, three hours after the deadline, the Red Sox visit the Rays for the opener of a three-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla., between the top two teams in the AL East who will see each other often over the final two months.
Friday is the seventh meeting of the 19-game season series, and the Red Sox are 4-2 so far. Boston won the first four meetings before the Rays got a pair of home wins, June 23-24.
The last meeting gave the Rays a half-game lead in the division, and they held the lead for two more days. Tampa Bay spent four days trailing by 4 1/2 games but tied the Red Sox last Saturday before losing three straight.
The Rays enter the series trailing by 1 1/2 games after impressively snapping a three-game skid that saw them score just six times. On Thursday, Tampa Bay cruised to a 14-0 win over the visiting New York Yankees; the Rays took a four-run lead four batters in and scored 10 times in the sixth inning.
"It's just kind of incredible, laughable in a good way," Tampa Bay's Austin Meadows said. "For us to do that just shows how good we are, how good we can be."
Meadows homered twice and drove in five runs while Brett Phillips also hit his first career grand slam and Ji-Man Choi also connected.
"The energy is up," Phillips said. "I feel like (after) a game like that, we've got some momentum going into the next series with Boston coming into town."
Meadows started the past two games at designated hitter because Nelson Cruz was held out of the starting lineup due to a bruised left foot. Cruz could return Friday, when the Rays may also add some relievers after trading Diego Castillo to the Seattle Mariners and placing Pete Fairbanks on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation.
While Tampa Bay is coming off one of its best games of the season, the Red Sox are coming off one of their worst. Besides seeing the rival Yankees acquire power hitters Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, the Red Sox dropped a 13-1 decision to the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday. They scored six times in that series after taking three of four from New York last weekend.
After losing out on Rizzo, the Red Sox acquired Kyle Schwarber from the Washington Nationals. Schwarber has been on the injured list since July 3 due to a strained right hamstring. Before getting hurt, he batted .253 with 25 homers and 53 RBIs.
He hit 16 homers in June, when Washington won 19 of 28 games. The Red Sox are hoping he fits in as another left-handed bat with Rafael Devers, who missed Thursday's game with left quad soreness and is day-to-day.
The Red Sox also may add a starting pitcher; Chris Sale is close to returning from Tommy John surgery.
"It's not how big (the moves are), it's just how smart," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "We believe good baseball moves help good baseball teams. We'll see what happens."
The Rays did not officially announce their starting pitching plans, but Josh Fleming (7-5, 4.07 ERA) is expected to appear either as the starter or the bulk guy following an opener.
Fleming has allowed 10 runs and 14 hits over 8 1/3 innings in his past two outings, July 17 at Atlanta and last Friday at Cleveland.
Fleming's only previous appearance against Boston occurred Sept. 10 as a starter when he allowed three runs on six hits and took a no-decision in a 4-3 loss.
Martin Perez (7-6, 4.18), who is 3-2 with a 3.55 ERA over his past seven starts, gets the call for Boston. On Sunday, he took a no-decision when he allowed three runs on six hits in six innings as the Red Sox erased a four-run deficit to beat the Yankees.
The left-hander is 2-5 with a 5.61 ERA in 14 career appearances (12 starts) against the Rays.
--Field Level Media