Garza, Lester Meet in ALCS Game 7 Rematch

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Garza, Lester Meet in ALCS Game 7 Rematch Although the Red Sox swept the Orioles this weekend in Baltimore, two of their
three starting pitching  performances were less than stellar. The next
two series — two games against the Rays in Tampa Bay and four games
against the Yankees in the Bronx — will be a good test for the Sox,
after 10 straight games of facing last-place teams.

When and Where
7:08 p.m, Aug. 4, 2009
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Records
Red Sox  (62-42, 2nd  place in AL East)
Rays (58-48, 3rd place in AL East)

Skinny
The Sox and Rays played 10 times through the first 26 games of the season but have not met since the second week of May. The Sox are 6-13 against the Rays since June 30, 2008, and 4-6 in 2009.  The Sox are 2-11 in their last 13 games at the Trop since Sept. 23, 2007, and have lost four straight regular season series there.

Starting Lineups

Red Sox
Rays
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF Jason Bartlett, SS
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Carl Crawford, LF
Victor Martinez, C Evan Longoria, 3B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B Ben Zobrist, 2B
David Ortiz, DH Willy Aybar, DH
J.D. Drew, RF Carlos Pena, 1B
Jason Varitek, C B.J. Upton, CF
Josh Reddick, LF Dioner Navarro, C
Nick Green, SS Gabe Kapler, RF

Starting Pitchers
LHP Jon Lester (9-7, 3.90 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Garza (7-8, 3.69 ERA)

This is a rematch of Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS. Garza got the better of Lester in that game, lifting the Rays to their first-ever World Series appearance.

Lester did not get a decision in his last outing, July 30 against the A’s at Fenway. He allowed four runs on eight hits with three walks and tallied a season-low two strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed all four runs in the sixth after retiring the first eight batters and pitching five scoreless innings. He left trailing 4-1 with two outs in the sixth. The Sox went on to score seven runs, with David Ortiz’s three-run homer being the key hit on the way to an 8-5 win. It was Lester’s season-high seventh straight start without allowing a home run, the longest active streak in the AL.

The outing broke a stretch of allowing three runs or fewer in Lester's previous 10 starts. In eight starts, he has allowed two earned runs or fewer and posted a record of 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA.

He is 0-2 with a 12.54 ERA (13 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings) in two starts against the Rays this season. In nine career starts against the Rays, he is 4-2 with a 5.02 ERA. In two career starts at Tropicana Field, he is 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA.

Garza is making his 25th start of the season, 76th of his career, and 52nd with the Rays. In his last start, he lost to the Yankees, giving up three runs in seven innings on eight hits. He gave up a home run to Robinson Cano, just the second round-tripper he’s allowed in his last six starts. He left the game trailing 3-0.

In 10 career starts against the Sox, Garza has a record of 5-1 with a 2.98 ERA, his third-lowest ERA against an AL opponent and tied for his second-most wins. As a member of the Rays, he is 3-1 with a 3.09 ERA against the Sox in the regular season. He last faced the Sox May 10 at Fenway, taking a no-decision after allowing three runs in seven innings. He threw 116 pitches, his highest pitch total at that point in the season.

Stat Sheet
Red Sox

The Sox are 27-25 on the road, third best in the AL this season. They are 28-12 against the AL East.

After hitting an AL-worst .192 (37-for-193) in their first six games after the All-Star break, the Sox have recorded 10 or more hits in each of their last four games and seven of their last nine. In that stretch, (before Sunday’s game) they hit .309 (96-for-311), third in the AL.

Jacoby Ellsbury has 48 stolen bases — one behind Carl Crawford, the major league leader. He is fourth on the Sox’ single-season all-time list, six behind leader Tommy Harper (54 in 1973). He is tied for seventh on the Sox’ all-time career list with 107.

Kevin Youkilis is one shy of his 20th home run of the season. With No. 20, he will join Harmon Killebrew (1960-61), Mike Schmidt (1985-86), Dave Kingman (1972-73), and Al Rosen (1954-55) as the only major leaguers to post back-to-back 20-homer seasons while playing at least 30 games at both first base and third base in each season.

On Saturday, Josh Reddick became the first Sox batter with two or more doubles in his first big league start since Rey Quinones accomplished the feat May 17, 1986, against the Rangers.

Daniel Bard has not allowed an earned run in his last 12 outings, spanning 14 innings over which he has allowed just four base runners on four singles. He has struck out two or more batters eight times in that span. Of the 42 outs he has recorded in that stretch, 23 have been by strikeouts.

Entering Sunday’s game, Boston's bullpen led the majors with a 3.16 ERA (105 earned runs in 299 1/3 innings), including a 1.51 ERA (seven earned runs in 41 2/3 innings) since the All-Star break.

David Ortiz has two home runs in his last four games and 10 RBI in his last nine games. He leads the AL and is tied for fifth in the majors with 14 homers since June 6. Entering Sunday’s game, he was averaging a home run every 11.14 at-bats since June 6, best in the AL and second in the majors behind Arizona’s Mark Reynolds (10.82).

Mike Lowell has hit safely in 11 straight games since coming off the DL July 17, going 17-for-41 (.415) with one home run and 12 RBIs. 

The Sox are batting .213 (35-for-164) against Garza, with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 15 RBIs, 13 walks and 38 strikeouts.

Ellsbury has faced Garza the most and has been the most successful,  going 9-for-23 (.391) with an RBI, two walks and three strikeouts.

Ortiz has two home runs against Garza but is hitting just .125 (2-for-16) with three RBIs, four walks and eight strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia is batting .130 (3-for-23) with a double and two strikeouts against Garza.

Youkilis is batting .188 (3-for-16) with a double, a walk and three strikeouts against the Tampa ace.

Rays
The Rays are 10-7 since the All-Star break, 30-16 since June 10 and 36-20 since May 29, but they have gained only a game on first place since then. On April 29, the Rays were in fifth place at 8-14, 6 1/2 games out. Since then, they are 50-34, the fourth-best record in the majors.

They are 21-16 against the AL East; 34-18 at home.

Entering Monday’s game, the Rays were among the major league leaders in stolen bases (first with 143); stolen bases percentage (second, 79.9); pitches per plate appearance (second, 3.98); run differential (third, plus-78); home runs (fourth, 128); walks (tied for fourth, 427); bullpen ERA (fourth, 3.44); runs (fifth, 544); runs per game (fifth, 5.18); on-base percentage (tied for fifth, .348); batting (tied for eighth, .267).

Entering Monday’s games, Garza ranked third in the AL with a .226 opponent batting average, trailing only Edwin Jackson (.223) and Jarrod Washburn (.223). He is eighth with 121 strikeouts, eighth with 8.0 strikeouts-per-nine-innings and is tied for third with 53 walks.

Garza owns six of the top seven highest pitch counts among Rays starters this season (120, 117, 116 three times, and 114). He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 16 starts this season and 14 of his last 17. Opponents have attempted to steal against him just three times this season and have been successful once. 

Evan Longoria is 15-for-40 (.375) with five doubles, five home runs and 21 RBIs in 10 games against the Sox this season. In 35 career games against the Sox (including the ALCS), he is hitting .293 (34-for-116) with 11 doubles, 10 home runs, and 35 RBIs.

Since the start of the 2008 season, the Rays are tied with the Sox at 91-42 (.684) for the best home record in the majors.

Carl Crawford leads the majors with 49 stolen bases. He has more  stolen bases than six teams this season. His next stolen base will give him his fifth 50-steal season, the most among active players. He would also be just the 16th player since 1900 with five 50-steal seasons. He is on track to win his fifth stolen base title in seven seasons.

The Rays are batting .313 (47-for-150) against Lester with eight doubles, six home runs, 21 RBIs, 16 walks and 33 strikeouts.

Jason Bartlett is hitting .500 (7-for-14) with one RBI and four strikeouts against Lester.

Carlos Pena
has three home runs against Lester, batting .273 (6-for-22) with eight RBIs, a walk and seven strikeouts.

Longoria is hitting .417 (5-for-12) against Lester, with two doubles, a home run, four RBIs and two strikeouts.

Black and Blue
Red Sox

Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 20 with a mild right shoulder strain. He has been working out at the team’s complex in Ft. Myers, Fla. and is expected to join the team in Tampa Bay Tuesday.

Right-hander Tim Wakefield was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to July 18 with a lower back strain.

First baseman/outfielder Jeff Bailey was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to July 5 with a left ankle sprain. He began a rehab assignment with the PawSox Monday, serving as the DH and batting first. He went 0-for-3.

Rays
Right-hander Chad Bradford is on the 15-day DL with lower back tightness.

Right-hander Jason Isringhausen is on the 60-day DL after right shoulder surgery.

Right-hander Troy Percival is on the 60-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis.

Second baseman Akinori Iwamura is on the 60-day DL after left knee surgery.

Outfielder Fernando Perez is on the 60-day DL after left wrist surgery.

This Date in Red Sox History
On Aug. 4, 1945, Tom McBride becomes the third major leaguer to record six RBIs in an inning. He registers a bases-loaded double and a triple in the Sox’ 12-run fourth against the Senators, who feature two rookie pitchers — Joe Cleary, who gives up seven runs on five hits and three walks in his only big league appearance to finish his career with a 189.00 ERA, and Bert Shepard, who has an amputated leg after being injured in World War II. He goes 5 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on three hits in his only major league appearance.

Overheard

“It’s amazing for a young guy like me. You think you’d get mad about it. But it’s a great honor to have, even though it’s shaving cream in the face.”
— Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick, who made his big league debut over the weekend in Baltimore, going a combined 4-for-11 with a home run against the O’s. He received a shaving cream pie in the face from David Ortiz.

Press Box
Red Sox

Lester and Garza face off  in a rematch of Game 7.

Victor Martinez wasted little time getting comfortable in the Sox lineup.

Daniel Bard has been untouchable for the Sox.

It’s already time to look ahead to the Yankees.

Rays
Fined after his Yankees start, Garza is looking forward to the Sox.

The Rays walloped Zack Greinke as a tune up for the Sox series.

Defense hasn’t been a strong suit for the 2009 Rays.

Joe Maddon
is thinking of changes.

MLB

Pedro Martinez is working on his stretch delivery.

Who are the trade deadline winners and losers?

The Pirates have conducted a major overhaul.

Outlook
Carl Crawford ran all over the Sox in the last series between these two teams, and the Rays are 22-for-25 in stolen bases against the Sox since June 30, 2008.  Keeping the Rays quiet on the basepaths will be a key in this series. For most of the decade, the Trop has been the Sox’ house of weirdness — so Boston will need Lester to show that the last inning of his last outing was just an aberration and return to his dominant stretch.

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