Red Sox Look to Close AL East Gap In Tampa Bay

Red Sox Look to Close AL East Gap In Tampa BayRed Sox Look to Close AL East Gap In Tampa BayThe Tampa Bay Rays may just run and hide in the American League East.

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.

WHEN AND WHERE

Red Sox (24-21) vs. Rays (32-12)
Monday, May 24, 7:10 p.m. (NESN)
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Rays swept four straight from the Sox in their first meeting this season at Fenway Park.

PITCHING MATCHUP

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.

LINEUPS

Red Sox Rays
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

STAT SHEET

Red Sox

  • Second baseman Dustin Pedroia is hitless in his last 20 at-bats.
  • Wakefield had gone 13 appearances (nine starts) between wins before Sunday’s victory, his first since July 8, 2009.
  • First baseman Kevin Youkilis has reached safely in 22 games in which he has had a plate appearance. He is hitting .358 (24-for-67) with five home runs and 14 RBIs in that span.

Rays

  • Catcher John Jaso is 6-for-10 with a home run and six RBIs in his last three games.
  • Closer Rafael Soriano is 1-0 with eight saves and has not allowed a run in 10 1/3 innings this month.
  • Tampa Bay had 15 hits and struck out 12 times in Sunday’s 10-6 win over Houston.

BLACK AND BLUE

Red Sox

  • Right-hander Josh Beckett, on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain, threw lightly Friday and was expected to throw from 120 feet Sunday. He is expected to throw a side session soon.
  • Center fielder Mike Cameron, out since April 18 with an abdominal strain, hit a walk-off home run Sunday for Portland. There is a chance he could join the team in Tampa.
  • Righty Boof Bonser had a start Saturday night suspended after one inning due to rain.
  • Infielder Jed Lowrie, out since mid-March with mono, may meet up with the team in Tampa this week and discuss his recovery with the medical staff.

Rays

  • Lefty reliever J.P. Howell had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder last week.
  • Catcher Kelly Shoppach remains on the DL following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
  • Outfielder Matt Joyce recently began a minor league rehab assignment as he works his way back from a right elbow strain.

OUTLOOK

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.