Lester Leads Red Sox in Series Opener Against the Rays

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Lester Leads Red Sox in Series Opener Against the Rays The Red Sox make their final trip to Tampa Bay, where they started their six-game losing streak in August, and to Tropicana Field, which has been their house of horrors over the last few seasons.

With the Sox leading the Rays by five games (and the Rangers by 3 1/2) in the wild card race, this three-game series (with three more next week at Fenway) could help the Sox better define the race and put one contender out of reach. But, the Sox are just 1-5 in Tampa Bay this season, 3-3 overall.

When and Where

7:08 p.m. ET (NESN), Sept. 1, 2009
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Records

Red Sox (76-54, 2nd place in AL East)
Rays (71-59, 3rd place in AL East)

Head to Head

The month of August got off to a difficult start for the Sox, losing six of their first eight games in the month, including six in a row for their longest losing streak of the season. But, Paul Byrd’s first start in almost a year Sunday helped to end the month on a positive note, beating the Blue Jays and ace Roy Halladay as the Sox won seven games on the 10-game homestand, going 16-12 in the month.

Lineups

Red
Sox
Rays
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF Jason Bartlett, SS
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Carl Crawford, LF
Victor Martinez, C Ben Zobrist, RF
Kevin  Youkilis, 1B Evan Longoria, 3B
David Ortiz, DH Carlos Pena, 1B
Jason Bay, LF Pat Burrell, DH
Mike Lowell, 3B Akinori Iwamura, 2B
J.D. Drew, RF Dioner Navarro, C
Alex Gonzalez, SS B.J. Upton, CF

Pitching Matchup

LHP Jon Lester (10-7, 3.60 ERA) vs. RHP Andy Sonnanstine (6-7, 6.61 ERA)

Lester did not get a decision in his last outing, as the Red Sox beat the White Sox Aug. 25 at Fenway. He gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts. 

He is winless in three starts against the Rays this season, posting a record of 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA, giving up 14 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings.  He has made just one start at Tropicana Field this season, getting a no-decision Aug. 4, going six innings, giving up one run with 10 strikeouts.  In four of his six starts against the Rays since 2008, he has allowed one or zero run and gone at least six innings.  In three career starts at Tropicana Field, he his 1-0, with a 5.00 ERA, giving up 10 earned runs in 18 innings.

Sonnanstine is making his first start since June 25, spending the last two months with Triple-A Durham, taking the place of Scott Kazmir, who was traded last week to the Angels.  This is his 16th start of the season, and 70th of his career. He is 5-0 with 4.54 ERA (18 earned runs, 35 2/3 innings) in six home starts, compared to 1-7 (8.22 ERA, 42 earned runs in 46 innings) in nine road starts this season. At the time he was optioned to Durham, he had the highest ERA in the majors and the most earned runs allowed in the majors.

This is his seventh regular-season career starts against the Sox and second this season. He is 2-1, with a 5.08 ERA (22 earned runs, 39 innings) against the Sox in his career. He last faced the Sox May 1 at Tropicana Field, earning the win, going 5 2/3 innings, giving two earned runs on eight hits.

Stat Sheet

Red Sox
The Sox hit .305 (106-for-347) on the 10-game homestand with 10 or more hits in seven games, going 7-3. They have hit 10 or more hits in 10 of their last 13 games.

The Sox finished August with 50 home runs, a team record for the month. They have hit more homers in a month just twice previously, 55 in July 2003, and 53 in July 1964. They have hit homers in 14 of their last 16 games, with multiple homers in 11 of those games.

Sox pitchers have eight shutouts this season.

Kevin Youkilis is the ninth Sox batter in history to record more than 30 doubles in at least four straight seasons, and the first since Johnny Damon (2002-2005).

David Ortiz has five doubles, seven home runs, 16 RBI, 18 runs scored, and 11 walks in his last 15 games, hitting .309 (17-for-55).

Rocco Baldelli has six home runs this season, his most since 16 in 2006. 

Alex Gonzalez has driven in four runs in his last five games. He hit .314 (11-for-35) with three home runs and five RBI on the homestand, going 10-for-23 (.435) in his last seven games.

The Sox are 12-7 on Tuesdays.

The Sox have scored 101 runs in the second inning, 17 more runs than their next most productive innings, with 83 in the first, fourth, and eighth.

The Sox have used 50 players this season. It is their most since using 53 in 2006. The 25 pitchers used are the most since 28 in 2006.  At this point last season, they had used 41 players.

Lester has six of the pitching staff’s eight pick-offs, with Justin Masterson and Hideki Okajima recording one each.

Jason Bay
has 13 of the outfield’s 24 assists.

The Sox are batting .300 (42-for-140) against Sonnanstine, with four home runs, 17 RBIs, 11 walks, and 20 strikeouts.

Jason Varitek is hitting .462 (6-for-13) with a home run, four RBIs, two walks, and four strikeouts against Sonnanstine.

Mike Lowell is batting .412 (7-for-17) with two walks and a strikeout against him.

J.D. Drew is batting .385 (5-for-13) with a home run, four RBIs, a walk, and a strikeout against him.

Rays
The Rays are 15-2-1 in their last 17 series at home, including five sweeps.

The Rays are playing 243 percentage points better at home than on the road, the third-largest home-road differential in the majors behind the Tigers (+258) and Giants (+253).

Since the start of the 2008 season, the Rays have a 99-45 (.688) record at home, just ahead of the Sox (101-46, .687) for the best in the majors.

Carlos Pena had 12 home runs in August, just behind his team-record 13 homers in September 2007.  He has 29 homers in August in the last three seasons, his most of any month and most of any player in the majors.

The Rays are 14-2 in their last 16 games against the Sox at Tropicana Field since Sept. 23, 2007. The Rays have beaten the Sox 13 times at home since the start of the 2008 season, their most wins against any opponent at home.

The Rays have won five straight regular season series against the Sox at home, and are 23-11 (.676) at home against the Sox under manager Joe Maddon. Overall, the Rays are 15-6 against Boston since June 30, 2008.

Including the 2008 postseason, the Rays are 19-9 in their last 28 games against the Sox, after going 43-98 in the previous 141 games.

The Rays have 169 home runs and 167 stolen bases.

The Rays are 24-24 against left-handed starters.

The Rays have used 39 players this season – 20 pitchers, five catchers, eight infielders, and six outfielders.

The Rays are batting .287 (51-for-178) with six home runs, 21 RBIs, 20 walks, and 46 strikeouts against Lester.

Jason Bartlett is hitting .500 (8-for-16) with an RBIs, a walks, and five strikeouts against Lester.

Evan Longoria is hitting .333 (5-for-15) with a home run, four RBIs, and five strikeouts against him.

Carl Crawford is hitting .318 (7-for-22) with an RBIs, a walk, and five strikeouts against Lester.

Carlos Pena is hitting .250 (6-for-24) with three home runs, eight RBIs, a walk, and eight strikeouts against him.

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 made a rehab start for Double-A Portland Sunday, giving up five runs in two innings to Manchester.

George Kottaras has been on the DL since Aug. 1 with a lower back strain. He is expected to be called up Tuesday.

Jed Lowrie has been on the DL since Aug. 7 with ulnar neuritis of the left wrist. He is expected to be called up Tuesday.

Rays
Right-hander Jason Isringhausen is on the 60-day DL with a right elbow injury.

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

This Date in Red Sox History

On Sept. 1, 1906, in the longest game in American League history, Philadelphia beat the Sox, 4-1, in 24 innings. Both A’s starter Jack Coombs and Sox starter Joe Harris pitched complete games.

Overheard

“I'll take it a day at a time. My arm feels very strong. I just want to stay sharp and whatever happens with me, happens with me. I want a World Series ring and any way I can help this team get that. If they need me to clean toilets, I'll go do that. I'm excited and whatever they need me to do, I'll do. I told that to Tito. I said I'll help you out any way I can. I'll get ready and whatever you need me to do, I'll do."
— Paul Byrd after beating the Blue Jays Sunday in his first big league start since Sept. 24, 2008

Press Box

Red Sox
This is a crucial series for the Sox.

The Sox will get some reinforcements Tuesday.

Tim Wakefield was scheduled for a cortisone shot in his ailing back.

Rays
Carlos Pena’s AL-best 38th home run helped the Rays beat the Tigers.

The Rays are calm heading into this key series with the Sox.

The Rays are getting their own reinforcements, and a starting pitcher.

MLB
Are big leads taking the fun out of division races?

Brad Penny is heading to the Giants.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia appears headed for arm surgery.

Outlook

It hasn’t been easy for the Sox over the last few seasons at Tropicana Field. But, winning the series could help them take the Rays out of the wild card race.  With call-ups joining the team today, and with the turf at the Trop, and a lefty pitching against the Sox Thursday, look for manager Terry Francona to do some lineup juggling in the next few days.

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