MLB: Red Sox set sights on series sweep of Rays

The Boston Red Sox aim for their first three-game series sweep in two months when they face the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon.

It has been a tale of two series for Boston on its six-game homestand.

After being swept by Toronto, the Red Sox clinched their first series win of the season against the Rays with Saturday’s 5-1 win, scoring four runs in the first inning.

“It was a big inning right away. We haven’t done that in a while,” manager Alex Cora said. “We got the lead and after that, (Rich Hill) was pounding the strike zone and getting ahead.”

Hill struck out 11 in seven shutout innings.

J.D. Martinez and Bobby Dalbec both hit two-run singles in an opening frame that also included singles by Tommy Pham and Trevor Story, and Alex Verdugo’s 32nd double, tying his career high from last season.

“We put up big innings, I think, all this year, but I think days like (Saturday) where we keep adding on, that’s how you put teams away,” Story told NESN after his first start since July 12 due to a right hand contusion. “Good teams like that, you have to do that.”

The consistent Nick Pivetta (9-9, 4.24 ERA) will take the mound on Sunday. He has made at least 25 starts for the fourth time in his career.

Pivetta allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings to Baltimore in a no-decision in the MLB Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pa., on Aug. 21.

Pivetta will be looking for a better result in his sixth career start against Tampa Bay after he was tagged for seven runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings on July 5.

The Canadian right-hander is 1-3 with a 4.67 career ERA against the Rays, having taken three consecutive losses dating back to Aug. 1, 2021.

With a win, Boston would claim its first sweep since June 24-26 in Cleveland, part of a seven-game win streak.

Saturday represented a sudden power outage for the Rays, who had scored 31 runs over their previous four games. The loss snapped a four-series win streak.

“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing, not trying to change too much,” outfielder Manuel Margot said. “They did a great job today defensively, but as long as we put in the work, I think we’ll be OK.”

Randy Arozarena was a bright spot, posting his third multi-hit game in the last six by going 2-for-4 with the lone Tampa Bay RBI.

Sunday will mark the fourth time this season that Corey Kluber (8-7, 4.20 ERA) faces Boston. Kluber looks to string back-to-back wins together for the first time since mid-July, as he allowed one run and five hits over six innings in a victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner beat the Red Sox in back-to-back starts in July, both times going six innings and holding them to just two runs and seven hits combined.

Kluber is 5-5 with a 4.16 ERA in 14 lifetime outings (13 starts) against a team that he hadn’t faced since 2018 prior to this season.

The Rays bullpen wasn’t taxed on Saturday. Left-hander Jeffrey Springs worked six innings, bouncing back after Boston’s four-run first.

After Springs, left-hander Garrett Cleavinger, who was recalled from Triple-A before the game, worked two perfect innings with three strikeouts.

Rays manager Kevin Cash praised Springs for surviving the rough start, which included a 32-pitch first inning.

“He was a batter or two away from us having to get somebody up — would not have been ideal. Really applaud him for the way he did settle down, limited damage and pitched really, really well.”

–Field Level Media

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