The Boston Red Sox (47-55) head down to Florida to start a series with the Tampa Bay Rays (49-53). Boston charged out of the All-Star break to build up a 5-game winning streak, culminating in an offensive explosion in their first game in Toronto. Then it all started to fall apart again, as the Sox dropped the next three games to the Blue Jays, ending the series by getting beat in a 1-hit shutout.
Now Boston must face the surging Rays, who have won 7 in a row. Tampa Bay has had a remarkable recovery from a dreadful start this season to charge back into the playoff conversation. Since June 10, the Rays have the best record in baseball (25-11). At one point they were 18 games under .500, but they've climbed to within 4 games of evening their record. They've gotten so hot that teams are now starting to doubt that they will actually trade ace David Price, as was widely assumed.
As for the Red Sox, this is a make or break series. With the trade deadline looming next week, Boston needs to win this series if they have any thoughts of remaining in contention. Another lost series means we'll probably be seeing some more veterans packing their bags next week.
- Jon Lester (10-7, 2.50 ERA) will take the mound for Boston. He's on an outstanding run over his past 7 starts, posting a 0.85 ERA by giving up 2 runs or less in each of those outings – including 3 shutouts. He also hasn't given up a home run in any of those starts and now faces a Rays team that ranks only 11th in the AL in home runs (80 – one more than the Red Sox).
- David Ortiz tweaked his back in his final at-bat yesterday and may sit out with back spasms. Big Papi says he hopes it's nothing serious, but those words don't exactly instill a lot of confidence as he walked around gingerly after the game. Taking Ortiz out of the lineup would deprive us of all the drama between he and David Price that was sure to pick up from where they left off the last time these teams met. It would be tough for Price to bean Ortiz with a pitch again if he's sitting in the dugout all game.
- David Price (10-7, 3.06 ERA) matches up with Lester in a battle of aces for Tampa Bay. He's on a bit of a roll himself, shutting out his last two opponents over 8 innings and giving up a total of only 3 runs all month. Price leads the league in strikeouts (173) and is 3rd in the league with a 8.24 K/BB ratio.
- There are actually a few Rays that have great career numbers against Lester. One of them is Desmond Jennings, who has hit .333/.379/.593 with 4 extra-base hits (including a HR) over 27 career at-bats against the Sox ace. Jennings is only hitting .248 overall this season with limited power, but his 2.3 WAR leads the team – mostly on account of his defense (1.4 dWAR is 5th among AL center fielders).
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Tags: Baseball, Boston, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, David Price, Jon Lester, MLB
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