After stretching their pitching staffs to their limits Saturday night, the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays are hoping to get quality innings out of their starters in the rubber game of a three-game series Sunday afternoon in St. Petersburg, Fla.

They plan on putting their trust in a pair of left-handers — Boston veteran Rich Hill and Tampa Bay’s young ace Shane McClanahan.

Their bullpens can use a break. In Saturday night’s 3-2, extra-inning win, Tampa Bay used seven pitchers. Boston used five.

That wasn’t all that surprising because both teams employed the “opener” concept, which was made popular by Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash in 2018, to compensate for injuries to their pitching staffs.

The Red Sox got more than they expected out of Garrett Whitlock, who was making his first career start. Whitlock was only expected to throw two or three innings. But he went four scoreless innings and allowed just one hit while striking out seven. But Whitlock’s effort was wasted as the Rays scored three runs in the bottom of the 10th.

With Tampa Bay’s J.P. Feyereisen making only his second career start, he combined with five relievers to hold the Red Sox without a hit through the first nine innings.

The Red Sox scored a pair of runs on two hits off Matt Risler in the top of the 10th, with Kevin Kiermaier hitting a three-run homer in the bottom half of the inning to end the game.

But the Red Sox and Rays are ready to get back to their regular starting rotations, and Hill and McClanahan will be asked to go more than a few innings. That shouldn’t be a problem for either.

Hill (0-1, 7.00 ERA), now 42, is in his 18th season in the majors and will be making his 198th career start. Hill’s career record is 74-53 with a 3.82 ERA.

Hill has played for 11 teams — Tampa Bay is one of them — and is in his third stint with the Red Sox. Against his former team, he’s made 12 appearances (three starts), and is 2-0 with a 4.01 ERA. Hill is coming off the bereavement list after attending funeral services for his father. Hill started last Monday’s game shortly after his father’s passing.

“The job is to be a professional and show up,” Hill told the Boston media last week. “No matter what circumstances there are outside of the clubhouse, or outside of the lines, you show up and you’re a pro.”

McClanahan, 24, is in his second season, was the Opening Day starter and has earned the trust of the Rays. In his most recent outing, McClanahan (0-1, 2.40) held the Cubs to two runs (one earned) in six innings. He allowed four hits and had a career-high nine strikeouts. McClanahan has allowed three or fewer runs in all three of his starts.

In three starts and 16 career innings against Boston, McClanahan is 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA. On Sunday, he’ll be trying to become the first Tampa Bay starter to get a win. All eight victories have been by the bullpen.

“Mac is doing some special things through three starts,” Cash said.

–Field Level Media