Struggling Rays Tee Off Against The Boston Red Sox

The offensively-challenged Rays (2-8) made up for lost ground against the Boston Red Sox (2-8), scoring 16 runs.

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Rays vs. Red Sox: Jeremy Hellickson, Sam Fuld Lead Rays To 16-5 Win Over Boston

The Tampa Bay Rays entered tonight’s game against the Boston Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka in the midst of a huge offensive slump. It took all of two innings, but Daisuke Matsuzaka solved those problems….and then some. The Rays took the lead in the top of the first innings on a solo homerun by Johnny Damon, and then the unloaded on Dice-K in the top of the second and scored six more runs.

Ben Zobrist led off the second inning with a weak groundball double up the left field line, and then B.J. Upton and Felipe Lopez loaded the bases with a walk and a single. At this point, the hits came fast and often: on the next three pitches, John Jaso doubled off the Green Monster, Reid Brignac singled sharply to center, and Sam Fuld brought the remaining baserunners home with a homerun just inside the Pesky Pole.

The Rays went on to tack on numerous runs over the course of the game, but that early lead was more than enough to allow the Rays to walk away with the win tonight. Their 16 total runs almost matched the amount of total runs they’d scored in their first nine games of the season (20), and the Red Sox have now allowed a total of 69 runs in their first ten games. The only other teams to start a season with a similar stretch have all finished with 84 wins or less.

Game Notes:

- Johnny Damon had a strong first game in Fenway as a Ray, getting a season high three hits including a solo homerun in the first. He also got booed by the fans during his first at bat – and booed by his own teammates.

- Sam Fuld technically came a single short of hitting for the cycle, but that’s only because he legged out a double on a ball hit into the left field corner in the ninth inning instead of staying at first base. His “cycle” (if you want to call it that) is only the second one in Rays history; B.J. Upton had the first.

- Jeremy Hellickson had an odd start, getting squeezed by the home plate umpire and walking five batters. Hellickson is notorious for his control, so seeing him walk five batters was highly unusual. Despite allowing an average of two baserunners an inning, though, Hellboy held the Sox to only two runs through 5.1 innings pitched.

- David Price faces off against Jon Lester tomorrow, as the Sox and Rays will each be fighting for their third win of the season.

For more analysis and coverage of the Rays, follow DRaysBay.com.

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Rays vs. Red Sox: Sam Fuld Somewhat Hits For The Cycle

In his first three at bats in the Rays / Red Sox game Monday night, outfielder Sam Fuld raked against Boston’s pitchers. He hit a homerun just inside the right field foul pole in the second inning – driving in two runs in the process – and then he hit a ball into the left center field gap and hustled into second base, getting a double on a headfirst slide. In his third at bat, Fuld ripped a ball into deep straightaway center field, and Jacoby Ellsbury couldn’t quite bring it in. The ball deflected off his glove as he attempted to make an over the shoulder catch, and Fuld cruised in to third base easily with a stand up triple.

Fuld is one of the players the Rays acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade, and he entered the season as the Rays’ fourth outfielder. He’s since proven himself to be an effective player, hitting balls hard, running the bases aggressively, stealing bases at every chance, and diving for any ball in his general vicinity on defense. While his bat profiles more as a reserve outfielder’s bat going forward, Fuld has been on fire recently and he’s caught nearly every ball hit near him on defense. He’s made some incredible plays recently, and he’s quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Fuld received two more at bats during Monday night’s game, giving him two final chances to hit for the cycle. Fuld flew out to left fielder Carl Crawford in the seventh, but then in the ninth inning he laced a rope into the left field corner. Instead of stopping at first base – as his teammates were screaming at him from the bench to do – Fuld hustled into second base for his second double of the game.

If you’d like to consider this as hitting for the cycle, Fuld would be only the second player in Rays history to hit for the cycle. B.J. Upton was the first player.

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Rays vs. Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka Struggles Early, Allows 7 Runs Through Two Innings

The Tampa Bay Rays entered tonight’s game against the Boston Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka in the midst of a huge offensive slump. Their entire offense has hit .163/.232/.284 so far this season, good for a collective .515 OPS, and they’ve only scored one run in five of their first nine games. With Manny Ramirez retiring and Evan Longoria injured, the Rays were facing some serious question marks about their offense.

It took all of two innings, but it appears Daisuke Matsuzaka has already solved those problems. The Rays took the lead in the top of the first innings on a solo homerun by Johnny Damon, and then the unloaded on Dice-K in the top of the second and scored six more runs.

Ben Zobrist led off the inning with a weak groundball double up the left field line, and then B.J. Upton and Felipe Lopez loaded the bases with a walk and a single. At this point, the hits came fast and often: John Jaso doubled off the Green Monster, Reid Brignac singled sharply to center, and Sam Fuld brought the remaining baserunners home with a homerun just inside the Pesky Pole.

After allowing a hit and a walk to start off the top of the third inning, Red Sox manager Terry Francona pulled Matsuzaka and brought in Tim Wakefield. The Rays currently lead the Red Sox 7-0.

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Dan Johnson At First In Today's Lineup

Despite earlier suggestions from Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon that Casey Kotchman would have the lion’s share of playing time at first base, Dan Johnson is once again manning the first bag.

It is quite possible that Sam Fuld is at fault for the recent diversion. The speedy outfielder has played himself into more playing time, awing crowds with his stellar defensive play and holding his own on the base paths. His strong performance has pushed Johnny Damon in the DH role and subsequently Dan Johnson back to first base.

The Rays lineup for today, courtesy of MLB.com:

Sam Fuld, LF
Johnny Damon, DH
Matt Joyce, RF
Dan Johnson, 1B
Ben Zobrist, 2B
B.J. Upton, CF
Felipe Lopez, 3B
John Jaso, C
Reid Brignac, SS

It appears Felipe Lopez will get another shot at third base after looking somewhat below average defensively against the Chicago White Sox, where he misplayed two pop-ups.

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Struggling Rays Head To Boston To Face Red Sox

After losing their weekend series with the White Sox and falling to a major-league worst 1-8 record, the Tampa Bay Rays head to Fenway Park to take on the Boston Red Sox in the first match-up of the season between the two teams. Jeremy Hellickson will be on the mound tonight for the Rays, and Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch for the Red Sox.

Heralded before the season started as the team to beat in the American League, the Red Sox have also started off very slow. Their pitching has been their main problem, as they have a 6.24 team ERA - by far the worst in the majors. Josh Beckett (2.08 ERA, 3.18 xFIP) and Jon Lester (3.65 ERA, 4.10 xFIP) are the only two pitchers on their staff that have throw well so far this year, with John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka all having considerable struggles in their starts. Their bullpen hasn't been much better, already blowing one game against the Indians and holding a collective 6.23 ERA, 6.18 FIP.

The Rays have had their own struggles so far this season, but their problem is the opposite of the Red Sox: their pitching has been decent, but their offense has been anemic. The Rays currently have a .163/.232/.284 team slashline, good for a collective .515 OPS. With Manny Ramirez's recent retirement and Evan Longoria's injury, the Rays are desperately lacking punch in their lineup.

Bad offense or bad pitching: which will prove victorious?

Tonight's game is scheduled to begin at 7:10 PM. For more coverage of the Rays, follow DRaysBay.com.

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