Drew Smyly wasn't expected to replace David Price when he was acquired at the trade deadline, but he's certainly pitched like an ace since joining the Tampa Bay Rays.
The left-hander seeks his fourth straight victory as the struggling Rays close out a four-game home series against the short-handed Boston Red Sox on Monday.
Smyly was considered a solid addition when he was acquired by Tampa Bay (66-71) from Detroit in the three-team deal that sent Price to the Tigers on July 31.
Smyly (9-10, 3.31 ERA), however, has pitched better for the Rays than Price has for Detroit. Since losing at Oakland in his debut Aug. 5, he's gone 3-0 with a 0.88 ERA while throwing at least seven innings in his last four starts.
"This is probably one of the better stretches I've had as a starter," he told MLB's official website.
Smyly continued his outstanding work by allowing one run in seven innings of a 3-1 road victory over AL East-leading Baltimore on Wednesday. He surrendered two hits for the second consecutive start.
"Certainly the future looks bright for him and Tampa having him in the rotation, but we'll see what baseball longevity has to say," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He obviously has a chance to be a good one. Already is."
Smyly is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four career appearances - two starts - against the Red Sox (60-76). He allowed two runs - one earned - in six innings of a 6-2 win over Boston on June 6.
David Ortiz is 4 for 7 with a home run off Smyly, though Mike Napoli has gone 0 for 7 with four strikeouts in the matchup. Napoli is 3 for 37 in his last nine contests.
Rookie Mookie Betts has gone 4 for 11 with five RBIs in helping Boston take two of the first three in this set. He had a double and an RBI single in Sunday's 3-0 victory that gave the Red Sox a 4-2 record on their 10-game trip.
Dustin Pedroia, though, was sidelined one day after leaving with concussion-like symptoms suffered on a blow to the head Saturday. The four-time All-Star has hit .316 in his last 32 games.
"We're holding him out for obvious reasons," manager John Farrell said. "We hope this is a short-term thing, but we'll have to go through the normal protocol, and that is continued exams by doctors and making sure that there are no symptoms."
Since posting a 2.94 ERA over an eight-start stretch, Rubby De La Rosa (4-5, 3.81) has recorded a 6.46 mark in his last three. He allowed three runs over 4 2-3 innings of an 11-7, 11-inning win at Toronto on Tuesday.
In his first start of the season, the right-hander gave up four hits and struck out eight in seven scoreless innings of a 7-1 victory over the visiting Rays on May 31.
Ben Zobrist had the only extra-base hit off De La Rosa with a double, but he's 0 for 10 in this series and has batted .149 in his last 18 games against Boston, including last postseason.
The Rays have batted .212 while losing 10 of 15, managing three hits Sunday. They've also slumped defensively with at least one error in eight consecutive games - their longest such streak in 10 years.