The Boston Red Sox will be looking to Nathan Eovaldi to stop their slide against his former team when they visit the Tampa Bay Rays for the middle game of a three-game weekend series on Saturday night.
Eovaldi (9-5, 3.49 ERA), who spent the first half of the 2018 season with Tampa Bay before being traded to Boston, has been the team's most consistent starter this season. However, the veteran right-hander has just one win in his past four starts.
Boston's lead atop the American League East shrank to a half game following second-place Tampa Bay's 7-3 victory in the series opener Friday.
"I think it's about executing (on the mound). Stuff-wise, we're good. ... But we've got to execute," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the loss. "We've got Nate on the mound (Saturday), so hopefully he can go out there and establish the strike zone and give us a quality start."
Yandy Diaz hit a two-run homer and both Mike Zunino and Randy Arozarena clubbed solo shots Friday to spark Tampa Bay, which put up 14 runs while blanking the New York Yankees in its prior game on Thursday.
The Rays improved to 3-4 against the Red Sox this year after dropping their first four meetings.
"The lineups in this division are really well-rounded, and to see us be able to put runs up like that against two of the better teams in this division -- it's pleasing to see," Rays catcher Zunino told Bally Sports Sun after the game.
Eovaldi pitched well against the Rays earlier this season, but has struggled against them throughout his career. On April 7, Eovaldi held Tampa Bay to one run on three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts over seven innings in Boston's 9-2 victory.
Overall, Eovaldi is 3-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 11 appearances (nine starts) opposite the Rays.
Tampa Bay will counter by sending left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (6-4, 4.38 ERA) to the mound.
Yarbrough turned in one of his better starts of the season last time out against Cleveland but was unable to earn a win. He limited the Indians to one run on five hits while walking one and striking out six over seven innings in a 3-2 defeat last Sunday.
Against the Red Sox this season, Yarbrough has struggled mightily to the tune of 14 runs (11 earned) allowed in seven innings over two appearances. Overall, he is 3-3 with a 6.79 ERA in 13 career games (six starts) against Boston.
On April 7, Yarbrough was knocked around for a season-high nine runs (six earned) while allowing nine hits, walking one and striking out two over five innings in a 9-2 blowout loss in Boston.
His next outing against the Red Sox on June 22 wasn't much better. Yarbrough was tagged for five runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts in two innings of relief in the Rays' 9-5 loss in 11 innings.
Boston will get a boost in the form of returning All-Star third baseman Rafael Devers on Saturday. Devers was not in the lineup the last two games after exiting Wednesday's nightcap against Toronto with left quad tightness.
--Field Level Media