If the Red Sox are ever going to have anything to say about it, this series in Florida is a good place to start.
The Sox, fresh off another series win in Philadelphia, throw Clay Buchholz at the Rays in the opener of three straight at Tropicana Field on Monday.
Tampa Bay owns an 8 1/2-game lead on the fourth-place Sox and already took four straight from the Sox in Fenway Park over Patriots’ Day weekend.
But Boston has gone 20-12 since then to at least stay afloat in the division race, and may finally be getting its rotation to perform on a consistent basis.
Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield both threw eight scoreless innings in wins over the Phillies this weekend.
The Rays swept four straight from the Sox in their first meeting this season at Fenway Park.
RHP Clay Buchholz (5-3, 3.26 ERA) vs. RHP Wade Davis (4-3, 3.35 ERA)
Buchholz has won four of his last five starts and is coming off perhaps his best start of the season. In a 3-2 win over Minnesota last Wednesday, he allowed two runs in eight-plus innings, striking out seven and walking one.
The Sox are 14-4 in Buchholz’s last 18 starts. He is 3-0 on the road this year and 2-2 with a 2.01 ERA in his career against Tampa Bay.
Davis is beginning to fulfill the potential the Rays saw in him when they took him in the third round of the 2004 draft, although he has been slightly more hittable of late. After opening the season 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA, the 24-year-old is 1-2 with a 4.32 mark in the span of three starts.
Davis has been reached for nine runs on eight hits and eight walks in 7 2/3 innings against Boston.
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Victor Martinez, C
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Jeremy Hermida, LF
Marco Scutaro, SS
|Jason Bartlett, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Ben Zobrist, RF
Evan Longoria, 3B
John Jaso, C
Hank Blalock, DH
Carlos Pena, 1B
B.J. Upton, CF
Reid Brignac, 2B
Dustin Pedroia hinted after Sunday’s win in Philadelphia that this is a different Red Sox team than the one that looked completely overmatched against the Rays last month.
Tampa Bay outscored Boston 24-9 in a four-game sweep in Fenway. Now is time for payback and, perhaps, a last-ditch chance to crawl back into the division race.