BOSTON — Winners of seven straight games to turn around a terrible start, the Tampa Bay Rays send rookie Yonny Chirinos to the mound Saturday in the second game of a three-game series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The task won’t be an easy one for Chirinos as he again seeks his first major league win as he goes against both the potent Boston lineup and former Rays left-hander David Price.
Price is a so-so 4-3 with a 3.09 lifetime ERA against his original team, but most of the power from previous teams was sent away during the offseason and Price opened 2018 with 14 scoreless innings over Tampa Bay over two starts (1-0).
Chirinos worked four scoreless innings in relief against the Red Sox in St. Petersburg April 1 and then, four days later, grabbed a spot in the rotation with five scoreless frames at Fenway.
So, in nine innings against what has been the best-hitting team in baseball, Chirinos has yielded four hits and no runs while walking one and striking out seven.
But he is still searching for that first win and hasn’t been able to go more than 5 2/3 innings since joining the rotation — and he gave up six runs in that 5 2/3-inning effort to suffer his first big league loss.
Friday night, the Rays hit three homers in building a 4-0 lead against Drew Pomeranz and then held on for a 4-3 victory with the tying run on first base in the ninth inning. Lefty Blake Snell won his fourth straight.
The Rays had their streak of five straight games with at least eight runs snapped Friday, but improved to 11-13 and have scored 51 runs during their longest winning streak since a nine-gamer for Joe Maddon in July, 2014.
Asked about the effect of his team hanging in after leaving Boston with a 1-8 record earlier this month, manager Kevin Cash said, “Huge. All that credit goes to those guys in the clubhouse.
“I mean, the way that — we were frustrated leaving here. Uh, three games — two that we had opportunities to potentially win, but credit the guys in that clubhouse for keeping their heads up, going back to the drawing board, working together and kind of getting on a rhythm at the same time, offensively and on the pitching side.”
Tampa Bay has hit 12 home runs in its last five games.
The Red Sox (19-6) have played four straight one-run games, going 2-2 in those games. They are 2-4 after a 17-2 start.
The current Rays have dreadful numbers against Price. Carlos Gomez is 0-for-20, Rob Refsnyder 0-for-8, Matt Duffy 1-for-15 (.067), Denard Span 1-for-12 (.083), Brad Miller 5-for-30 (.167) and Adeiny Hechavarria 2-for-12 (.167).
As a team, this roster, which has changed drastically since last season, is batting .126 in 127 at-bats, with no homers and just two RBIs against Price.
In Chirinos’ 9 1/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox, no one has more than four at-bats and the team is a combined 4-for-29 (.138).
Xander Bogaerts, out since April 8 with a crack in his left ankle, returned to the lineup Friday night by going 3-for-4 — raising his batting average to .405.
“We’re very left-handed right now,” manager Alex Cora said before Friday night’s game. “The way he was driving the ball, it’s important to have him there and the rest of the guys will fall into place.”
Bogaerts, who reached on an infield hit in the ninth inning, said the pain in his ankle feels like needles but it’s nothing he can’t play through.
The Rays got Matt Duffy (hamstring) back and he was 1-for-5.
To make room for Bogaerts, Brock Holt was placed on the 10-day DL with a left hamstring strain, while the Rays cleared Duffy’s return by sending right-hander Austin Pruitt to Triple-A.
Pruitt hadn’t pitched since April 14.