Mike Kickham (1-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. Josh Fleming (3-0, 3.52 ERA)
The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will meet for the first of four games on Thursday night at the Trop in St. Petersburg. The Red Sox are counting down the days of this throwaway season and looking towards the future. They are in the basement of the American League East with a record of 15-29, which situates them 13.5 games back of the Rays for the lead in the division.
Despite 16 teams reaching the postseason, the Red Sox won’t be playing baseball in October. A record around .500 might be enough to get in, but the Red Sox aren’t close to a .500 baseball team. The Red Sox are coming off a nice 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday. Chris Mazza provided a sharp performance, as he went 5 innings with 2 earned runs conceded.
Mazza hasn’t had much to be happy about in 2020, but that was on start he can look back on and be proud of. The Phillies are not an easy team to keep in check, and Mazza handled the challenge well. Small wins here and there is all the Red Sox can aim for at this point. They will have to go back to the drawing board and re-group after this 60-game campaign.
Getting Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez back next year will help. That said, Sale is not expected to be ready for the start of the 2021 season. He has a lot of rehabbing to do before he gets himself into a position to throw without any limitations. As far as Rodriguez is concerned, he had complications to his heart from a COVID-19 infection. No word on how he is healing up at the moment, but Rodriguez plans on being back for 2021.
The Red Sox are doing a lot of experimenting without a healthy rotation to lean on this summer. 31-year-old Mike Kickham is one of those experiments on the bump. He’s back in the majors after playing in the minors for the past five years.
His time in the big leagues in 2013 and 2014 didn’t go well, and he isn’t off to the best of his starts in his final opportunity. Kickham gets the starting nod, while the Rays are expected to counter with rookie Josh Fleming. Head below for our free Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays pick for September 10, 2020.
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Mike Kickham must be feeling fortunate to get another opportunity in the majors. After he was mauled in 2013 and 2014, Kickham likely wasn’t feeling too confident about getting another call up. Kickham had to wait a long time, but he’s finally back up playing with the Red Sox. Neither season went well for Kickham back then.
In his first taste of the majors, Kickham recorded an ERA of 10.16 and 1.98 WHIP in 12 games. He got another opportunity the following season and it was more of the same for him in San Francisco. Kickham posted an ERA of 22.50 and 4.50 WHIP in two appearances the following year.
Compared to what Kickham was doing back then, he’s been Cy Young quality this season. No, not really, but Kickham has at least hung in there across two appearances out of the bullpen. Kickham owns an ERA of 5.40 and 2.00 WHIP through 5 innings of work against the Blue Jays and Braves.
He’s conceded 8 hits and 3 earned runs through 8 innings in 2020. Note that this will be his first start of the season. The Red Sox will likely have a piggy backer ready to go in the bullpen if things go south for Kickham early. If Kickham is showing fatigue after two or three innings, he’ll likely get pulled quickly. Josh Fleming has been pitching well in his first season in the majors.
He heads into the Trop on Thursday with an ERA of 3.52 and 1.04 WHIP through 15.1 innings of work. Fleming wasn’t great in his most recent outing against the Miami Marlins, but was in great form in his first meeting against them and his debut versus the Blue Jays on August 23. I have no faith in Kickham here, so the Rays at even money looks like a pretty good deal on Thursday night.