After taking care of business against the Orioles, the Red Sox begin a 32-game stretch that will ultimately decide their season. The first two games come against the Rays, who are looking to cut their deficit in the AL East and wild card races.
R.J. Anderson of DRays Bay joined us to answer a few questions about the Rays, as they host the Red Sox for an important two-game series.
NESN.com: Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, did the Rays make the right move by making no move at all? And how weird is it to hear Scott Kazmir's name surface in rumors when as recent as last year that would have sounded insane?
R.J. Anderson: Its hard to say. On one hand, nobody was going to make much of a difference in terms of getting the Rays closer to the playoffs this year, but the benefit of having a Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee next year was tempting.
As for Kazmir, it's not as weird as you would think. I think most of us have come to grips with the idea that some of the high-salaried players are going to have to go. That probably means Kazmir and Carl Crawford and, well, there's nothing we can do about it. It's not like they take the memories and good times with them.
NESN.com: Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza are all under .500, but Jeff Niemann is 10-5. What is wrong with the Big Three in Tampa Bay? Could last season's lengthy postseason run be a factor in the decline of the front end of the rotation?
R.J. Anderson: Not at all. Shields has received about the same run support as I have and Garza has had some issues himself. Niemann on the other hand must buy the lineup dinner and a movie the night before his starts because he gets an insane amount of support.
NESN.com: Outside of J.P. Howell, who has put up some impressive numbers out of the pen,; who is the most reliable reliever for the Rays?
R.J. Anderson: Probably Grant Balfour. After a rough April he's really turned it on.
NESN.com: B.J. Upton is hitting .244, Dioner Navarro is hitting .226 and Pat Burrell is hitting .226. Who has been the biggest disappointment at the plate this season?
R.J. Anderson: A combination of the three. Navarro didn't have much of a track record of constant success and Upton still had shoulder surgery to recover from, so a few steps back were expected, but Burrell has a half-decade of success to go off.
NESN.com: Right now the Rays are 5 1/2 back in the East and five games out of the wild card. There are still 57 games remaining for the Rays, but how do you feel about their chances at reaching the postseason for the second straight year?
R.J. Anderson: Honestly the chances are going to rely on a lot of luck going the Rays' way. If you want a percentage I would guess around 25 to 35 percent. That's not bad, per se, but it involves more luck than I'm comfortable with.
NESN.com: What are the keys for the Rays to taking the two-game series from the Red Sox?
R.J. Anderson: Pitching well and letting the offense take advantage of the Red Sox' porous defense.
Thanks again to R.J. Anderson for sharing his insight on the Rays. Don’t forget to check out his blog, DRays Bay.
Stay tuned Thursday for a series preview of the Yankees, as the Red Sox head to the Bronx for the biggest series of the year to date.