Red Sox Set For A Double Dip With Tampa Bay

Red Sox Set For A Double Dip With Tampa Bay As Ernie Banks once said, "Let's play two today." The Red Sox' series opener with the visiting Tampa Bay Rays was postponed on Friday night, but the two squads are set to do battle in a Sunday afternoon doubleheader instead.

The Sox won Saturday night's game in a rain-shortened blowout, 9-1, but they've got two more games on the docket Sunday, and two daunting starting pitchers facing them. This is a big day for the Sox, with a chance to hammer a nail into the Rays' October coffins.

When and Where

12:05 and 5:05 p.m. ET (NESN), September 13, 2009
Fenway Park, Boston, Mass.

Records

Red Sox (82-58, 2nd place in AL East)
Rays (72-69, 3rd place in AL East)

Head to Head

The Red Sox have to be encouraged by the results of Saturday night's opener. They finally got a solid start out of Josh Beckett, who allowed just one run in five innings of work, and the offense was firing on all cylinders as Kevin Youkilis went deep for the 25th time and Alex Gonzalez also notched a multi-hit game. The Sox are performing well at home, but can they perform well for 18 grueling innings on Sunday afternoon? We shall see.

Starting Lineups

Game 2

Rays Red Sox
Jason Bartlett, SS Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Carl Crawford, LF Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Evan Longoria, 3B Victor Martinez, 1B
Ben Zobrist, CF J.D. Drew, RF
Willy Aybar, 1B Jason Bay, LF
Gabe Kapler, RF David Ortiz, DH
Dioner Navarro, C Mike Lowell, 3B
B.J. Upton, CF Jason Varitek, C
Fernando Perez, LF Alex Gonzalez, SS

Starting Pitchers

RHP Clay Buchholz (5-3, 3.92 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Garza (7-9, 3.85 ERA)

Buchholz is flat-out cruising. The young righty hasn't lost a game since Aug. 13, going 4-0 with one no-decision, and he's beginning to look like a playoff-ready pitcher for an ailing Red Sox staff. He's fresh off seven shutout innings against Baltimore and primed to put up another gem.

Garza is exhibit number 59,672 for the meaninglessness of pitchers' won-lost records. By all accounts, he's been the ace of the Rays' staff this year, putting up 159 strikeouts to 68 walks and maintaining a 3.85 ERA. But for some reason, the Rays just haven't been able to win with the young righty on the mound, including a 4-1 loss in his last start, despite his zero earned runs allowed in seven innings against the Yankees. If the Rays want to stay alive in this pennant race, they had best show Garza some run support.

LHP Jon Lester (12-7, 3.44 ERA) vs. RHP James Shields (9-10, 4.02 ERA)

Just like Buchholz, Lester is looking dominant these days. He hasn't lost in nine starts since July 19, his first start of the second half, and he's struck out 67 batters in 59 2/3 innings over that stretch. The Sox always knew they had an ace in Lester — now, he's proving it.

Shields has pitched like an ace for the Rays for most of this season, but his last two starts have been a bit troubling. On Aug. 31, he put up a stinker in Detroit, allowing five runs in seven innings but winning anyway, and he was even worse on Sept. 5, giving up six runs in 6 1/3 innings in a rematch with the Tigers. On a good day, though, Shields is one of the AL's best young hurlers.

Stat Sheet

Red Sox
The Red Sox are 22-19 in day games this season.

Boston has 506 total extra-base hits. It leads the AL in doubles and is third in home runs.

Jon Lester has a 3.39 ERA at Fenway Park this season.

Clay Buchholz is 3-2 in his career against Tampa Bay. He has a 2.79 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings.

Jason Bay is 10th in the AL with a .536 slugging percentage.

Dustin Pedroia has scored 97 runs, tied with Derek Jeter for fourth in the AL.

Jacoby Ellsbury's 162 hits rank him ninth in the AL.

Victor Martinez
is 12-for-30 (.400) at in September. He has nine RBIs.

Kevin Youkilis has a .963 OPS at home this season. He has homered 11 times.

David Ortiz has hit 16 of his 23 home runs at Fenway Park. He also has 49 home RBIs.

J.D. Drew
has a .405 career on-base percentage against Tampa Bay. He has six homers and 12 doubles in 129 at-bats.

Jason Varitek is a .263 career hitter against the Rays.

Rays
The Rays have 570 walks this season, second only to the Yankees in the American League.

Matt Garza is 5-1 in 11 career starts against the Red Sox. He has a 3.18 ERA.

Opponents are hitting .285 against James Shields on the road.

Ben Zobrist is eighth in the AL with a .396 slugging percentage.

Carl Crawford has 163 hits, eighth in the AL.

Evan Longoria has 30 home runs, seventh in the AL. This is his first career 30-homer season.

Jason Bartlett is a .339 hitter on the road this season. He has 11 home runs and 16 doubles.

Pat Burrell is a .210 career hitter against the Red Sox in his career.

Black and Blue

Red Sox
Jed Lowrie
(left forearm) recently made his return from the 15-day DL. He was a defensive replacement in the Red Sox' 10-0 win over the Orioles on Tuesday night.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, out since June 20 with a strained right shoulder, is set to make his return. He will pitch for the Red Sox on Tuesday when they take on the Los Angeles Angels.

Miguel Gonzalez has been on the 60-day DL since March 27. He is recovering from surgery on his right elbow.

Rays
Carlos Pena
fractured his left hand. He is out for the season.

Jason Isringhausen has a torn ligament in his right elbow. He has been on the 60-day disabled list since June 14.

Troy Percival has been on the 60-day DL since May 22. He has tendinitis in his right shoulder.

This Date In Red Sox History

In 1949, John William Henry II was born. On Sunday, the principal owner of the Red Sox and co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing celebrates his 60th birthday.

Overheard

"It’s frustrating to go out there. Obviously I wasn’t dominating the inning, but you don’t want the rain to stop, and you’re not able to get out of your own jam and somebody else gives up runs, and you get a loss for pitching a third of an inning and throwing 20 pitches. Fortunately, it didn’t turn out that way and we can start all over [Sunday].”
–Jon Lester in Saturday's Boston Herald. After his Friday night start was washed out, Lester will start for the Red Sox on Sunday in the nightcap of their doubleheader.

Press Box

Red Sox
Josh Beckett and Alex Gonzalez paced the Red Sox on Saturday night.

It's not all about Jason Varitek anymore.

The back of the rotation is a work in progress.

Rays
Rain put the Rays out of their misery on Saturday.

The Rays have a shot in 2010.

B.J. Upton is no quitter.

MLB
John Smoltz
will miss a start.

David Wright led the Mets past the Phillies.

Welcome back, Tim Lincecum.

Outlook

For the Red Sox, this is a big series in their quest to slam the door on the Rays and inch closer to the AL wild card. When you're taking on the defending AL champions in September, it's never a game to be taken lightly — and that's especially the case when taking on Garza and Shields, two of the AL's top young pitchers. The Red Sox will need to work hard for every run — but if they do, they're well on their way to an October berth.

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