Top things to know: Red Sox at Rays

Kim Klement/US Presswire

Evan Longoria has been a bit of a mystery at the plate this season.The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays meet in the second game of a three-game set at Tropicana Field on Wednesday Night Baseball (7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). Here are five storylines our broadcast crew will be talking about.

1. After play was complete on August 24, the Rays were percentage points ahead of the Red Sox for first place in the AL East and held a nearly 90 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Coolstandings.com.

Since then, the Rays have lost 12 of their last 16 to cut their playoff chances almost in half – down to 46 percent.

2. Will the real Evan Longoria please stand up? He started the year batting .307/.366/.569 (.935 OPS) in his first 75 games, on pace for an MVP-caliber season.

But since then, he’s batted .213/.317/.406 (.722 OPS) in his last 65 games and that’s INCLUDING an 11-game outburst over which he went 17-for-43 with six home runs from August 14 to August 25. Those 11 games did not get him back on track; since then he’s hitting just .164 (9-for-55).

3. On July 29, the Red Sox and Rays played a make-up game at Fenway Park due to an earlier rainout. The Rays won the game to move a half-game ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East. Soon after the game ended, the Rays official twitter account had this to say about the standings on Fenway Park’s Green Monster:

AL East Rivals, Since July 30

Dear @RedSox scoreboard operator - your standings are wrong. Yours truly, @RaysBaseball.

The Red Sox twitter feed replied:

Don't worry @raysbaseball we look forward to seeing you in Tampa in September for our home games at the Trop.

Since that day the Rays have spent only four days in first place, compared to 41 for the Red Sox.

4. The Red Sox have seen 1,015 more pitches than any other team in baseball this season and are first in the majors in pitches seen per plate appearance. Six Red Sox regulars are in the top 50 in the American League in pitches per plate appearance.

Those long at-bats mean the Red Sox get to the opponent’s bullpen faster than any other team in the majors. Opposing pitchers have failed to reach six innings pitched against Boston 78 times this season, the most against any team.

Most Shifts This Season<<

5. The usage of the “Ted Williams Shift” has exploded across baseball in recent seasons. This year’s projected total of shifts (7,865) is nearly four times what it was just three years ago (2,465).

The Rays are one of the most progressive teams in terms of shift employment. Tampa Bay has saved 11 runs with the use of the shift alone this season, which is equal to roughly one additional win.