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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays have dropped three straight and the Boston Red Sox have won four straight.
The only consolation for the Rays as they try to avoid a sweep is that they have an actual starting pitcher on the mound for Thursday’s game against the Red Sox.
“Tomorrow we are going to come back and try to get the win as a team,” said rookie shortstop Willy Adames, whose throwing error was costly in a 4-1 loss Wednesday night. “You have to be the same when you’re doing good and when you’re doing bad. You have to take responsibility when you do something good and when you do something bad, too. You have to be a grown man.”
The Rays’ pitching injury woes continued Wednesday with news that Jake Faria could be out until August with a strained oblique, suffered in the third inning Tuesday.
Tampa Bay has already resorted to regular bullpen days and experimented last weekend against the Los Angeles Angels with using reliever Sergio Romo as an “opener,” starting on back-to-back days and getting three and four outs, respectively, before giving way to longer relievers.”
“I don’t know what we’re going to do quite yet,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Wednesday’s game. “I would imagine we’ll be revisiting Sergio starting again.”
Cash said that he may use Romo in that role three games in a row this weekend for the series against Baltimore. He’ll rely heavily on his bullpen, with Ryan Yarbrough, Anthony Banda, Austin Pruitt and recent callup Vidal Nuno all in for major innings.
“I saw it, interesting way of attacking the opposition,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters Tuesday. “Honestly, I don’t know much about what type of information they used to do that, but they’re interesting. It’s not an easy team to prepare for because on a daily basis something different might happen. They feel that way, they feel they can do all that stuff.”
For now, Tampa Bay can count on a traditional starter Thursday in Blake Snell. Snell is 5-3 record and 3.07 ERA.
He’s been especially sharp against Boston, holding them scoreless in 5 2/3 innings on March 30, then limiting them to two runs in 7 1/3 innings for a win April 27 and a season ERA of 1.38 against Boston.
For his career, Snell is 2-3 with a 4.13 ERA against the Red Sox, including an 0-2 mark with a 5.97 ERA last season.
Boston counters with Rick Porcello, off to a sterling 6-1 start with a 3.39 ERA. He’s been dominant against the Rays, going 2-0 in three starts — all Red Sox wins — with a 3.10 ERA and 17 strikeouts against only one walk.
Still only 29, he’s 14-8 for his career against Tampa Bay with a 3.23 ERA, with four of those losses coming last season.
Porcello will attempt to help the Red Sox (34-15) move 20 games over .500 and win their fifth straight game. Boston recorded its latest win when Xander Bogaerts hit a tiebreaking double in the ninth Wednesday.
The pressure is on every Rays pitcher to help lessen the burden on an overtaxed bullpen that is even tasked with occasional starts, for now.
“We just go out there and try to do our thing and pitch to our best capability, execute at a high level, and that’s all anyone is asking us to do,” said Tampa Bay’s only other healthy starter, Chris Archer, after a no-decision Wednesday.
After this series wraps up, the Rays have three at home against the Baltimore Orioles, then hit the road for nine games, starting at Oakland and Seattle. Boston returns home for its next six, against the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays.