Red Sox

Red Sox face huge week in standings, with three-game series against Yankees, Rays

The Red Sox hold a slim lead in the AL East as a crucial midseason stretch looms.

Xander Bogaerts
The Red Sox take on the Rays and the Yankees this week in a pair of important series's. Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

The Red Sox dropped a dismal 7-3 loss to the Royals on Sunday, which could easily be erased from fans’ memories if the Red Sox go on a run over the next week.

The Red Sox have a slate of highly impactful games looming before Sunday, including a three-game series apiece against both the Yankees and Rays.

Here’s a closer look at both.

Tampa Bay Rays

June 22-24, all games at 7:10 p.m.

On Tuesday, the suddenly first-place Red Sox take on the Rays, who trail by a half-game in the standings.

The Red Sox might be without Christian Arroyo, who suffered a right-shin bone bruise Sunday after colliding with Kiké Hernández pursuing a fly ball. After the loss, Alex Cora told reporters Arroyo was “sore,” but he will travel with the team to Tampa Bay to see if he can play.

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Still, even if the Red Sox are momentum-less and missing a few players, they are in better shape than the Rays. Tampa Bay lost its sixth straight game on Sunday when Mariners outfielder Shed Long hit a 10th-inning walk-off grand slam.

A walk-off grand slam might feel like a fluke, but Long’s homer helped the Mariners complete a four-game sweep of the Rays that included three walk-off hits.

Per MLB Savant, the Red Sox rank second in the the league in XBA (expected batting average), which measures how likely a batted ball is to be a hit. The Rays rank last. In XSLG (expected slugging percentage) meanwhile, which factors in a combination of exit velocity, launch angle and sprint speed, the Red Sox are third while the Rays are seventh-worst.

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Worth watching

The Rays called up prospect Wander Franco from Triple-A Durham on Sunday after their loss to the Mariners. Franco is a switch-hitting infielder ranked by ESPN as the No. 1 prospect in baseball by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, who called Franco “the best prospect baseball has seen in at least five years.”

New York Yankees

June 25 at 7:15 p.m., June 26 at 7:10 p.m. and June 27 at 1:10 p.m.

The Red Sox swept the Yankees earlier this month, but the Yankees — in a major reversal from the Rays — have won five of their last six and closed the gap in the standings to 4.5 games.

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Like the Rays, the Yankees ended their game on Sunday with a rare milestone: A game-clinching triple play that secured a 2-1 victory over the Athletics. Somehow, the Yankees have completed three triple plays this season.

Currently, the Red Sox hold a comfortable lead in the standings over the Yankees, but that could change quickly if the Rays right the ship and especially if the Yankees avenge their struggles from their last series against the Red Sox. After dropping the first two contests, the Yankees nearly took Game 3 and thought they drew a walk-off walk in the ninth before Xander Bogaerts singled to drive in two runs and help clinch the finale 6-5.

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Worth watching

The Yankees start a series on Tuesday against the same Royals team that just upended the Red Sox 2-1 in their three-game series. Despite two victories over the Red Sox, Kansas City won just three of its last 10.

If the Red Sox rally and claim a few wins against division opponents, they could build themselves a nice cushion. If they lose, they could tumble quickly down the standings.

Tuesday’s game could be an interesting preview of what promises to be a highly competitive, potentially impactful week.

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