Patriots’ Day is celebrated for several things, many of which surround the annual late-morning game at Fenway Park. But rarely has that game taken on an almost desperate feel.
Losers of four straight and eight of 11, the Red Sox will host the Rays in the finale of a four-game set on Marathon Monday.
Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win Sunday gave Boston four straight losses by a combined score of 24-7. The Sox have committed seven errors in that span.
One of the few constants on the season for the Sox has been right-hander John Lackey. He will be opposite Jeff Niemann in the holiday tilt.
WHEN AND WHERE
Rays (9-3) vs. Red Sox (4-8) Monday, April 18, 11 a.m. (NESN) Fenway Park, Boston, Mass.
HEAD TO HEAD
Including the 2008 postseason, the Rays are 19-11 against the Sox since June 30, 2008.
RHP Jeff Niemann (0-0, 3.24 ERA) vs. RHP John Lackey (1-0, 1.42 ERA) Lackey has been the Red Sox’ best pitcher since the start of spring training. They may need him now more than ever.
The burly right-hander has owned the Rays, going 9-2 with a 3.07 ERA in 12 career starts.
Niemann saw his 2010 debut cut short when he was struck by a line drive. He rebounded to allow just three runs in seven innings of an 8-6 win over Baltimore five days later.
Marco Scutaro, SS Dustin Pedroia, 2B Victor Martinez, C Kevin Youkilis, 1B David Ortiz, DH Adrian Beltre, 3B J.D. Drew, RF Bill Hall, CF Jeremy Hermida, LF
Boston is off to its worst 12-game start since it went 2-10 in 1996.
Jon Lester recorded his 500th strikeout Sunday, becoming the fastest left-hander ever to reach the milestone for the Sox.
Adrian Beltre doubled Sunday to join Vladimir Guerrero as the only active players with at least 175 doubles and 100 home runs in both leagues.
Carl Crawford has stolen 30 straight bases against Boston without being caught.
Including the 2008 postseason, Matt Garza is 8-2 with a 2.71 ERA in 15 career starts against the Sox.
Carlos Pena has five home runs against Lester, the most he has against any pitcher.
BLACK AND BLUE
Jacoby Ellsbury took some swings and threw the ball Saturday afternoon. Both he and manager Terry Francona said he could return from a bruised rib by the middle of the week.
Boof Bonser‘s shoulder stiffness was nothing more than that. He will be sent back to Pawtucket once the stiffness subsides.
As of Friday there had been no progress made by Jed Lowrie, on the 60-day disabled list with mononucleosis.
Catcher Kelly Shoppach is on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 11 with a sprained right knee. He was sent to Florida for more tests and manager Joe Maddon said there is a chance he could be on the shelf a little longer.
Outfielder Matt Joyce had a setback on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham. He is on the DL with a right elbow strain but is also heading to Florida to seek treatment.
The weather should be better and a festive atmosphere will envelop Fenway, as it always does on Patriots’ Day. Another showing like the one the Sox have put forth the past few days would put a big damper on things.
The pressure falls on Lackey, who is no stranger to pitching in big games. Then again, just the fact that this can be called a big game says something about the state of the Sox.