With the Red Sox holding just a two-game advantage in the wild card standings over the Rangers, the next six games against the Rays and Angels will have significant playoff implications.
Jon Lester and James Shields meet in the series opener on Friday at Fenway for the final series between the division rivals this season.
When and Where
7:10 p.m. ET (NESN), Sept. 11, 2009
Fenway Park, Boston, Mass.
Red Sox (81-58, 2nd place in AL East)
Rays (72-68, 3rd place in AL East)
The Red Sox took two of three from the Rays at Tropicana Field last week, their first series win in Tampa Bay since September 2007. The Red Sox are 8-16 against the Rays since June 30, 2008. Including the 2008 postseason, the Red Sox are 11-20 in their last 31 games against the Rays, after going 98-43 in their previous 141 games. The Red Sox have dropped two of their last three regular season series against the Rays at Fenway. Before that, the Red Sox had gone 25 regular season series against the Rays at Fenway without losing (21-0-4).
|Jason Bartlett, SS||Jacoby Ellsbury, CF|
|Carl Crawford, LF||Dustin Pedroia, 2B|
|Evan Longoria, 3B||Victor Martinez, C|
|Ben Zobrist, CF||Kevin Youkilis, 1B|
|Pat Burrell, DH||David Ortiz, DH|
|Willy Aybar, 1B||Jason Bay, LF|
|Gabe Kapler, RF||Mike Lowell, 3B|
|Dioner Navarro, C||J.D Drew, RF|
|Akinori Iwamura, 2B||Alex Gonzalez, SS|
LHP Jon Lester (12-7, 3.44 ERA) vs. RHP James Shields (9-10, 4.02 ERA)
Lester continued his string of dominance with his last start, Sept. 6 against the White Sox in Chicago, the only win the Red Sox recorded in four games in that series. Lester threw seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and two walks, with eight strikeouts. In that game he became the 10th Red Sox pitcher to record 200 strikeouts in a season. Lester leads the Red Sox staff with 20 quality starts, in 28 outings.
This is his fifth start of the season against the Rays, the most starts he?s made against one team in 2009. He is 1-2, with a 6.75 ERA (16 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings) in his previous four starts against Tampa Bay. His only win against the Rays this season came in his last start, Sept. 1 at Tampa Bay. In 11 career starts against the Rays, he is 5-2 with a 4.50 ERA (32 earned runs in 64 innings). His last two starts and five of his last seven against the Rays have been quality starts.
Shields, who is making his 30th start of the season, leads the Rays staff with 192 2/3 innings pitched, closing in on his third straight season of 200 or more innings. In his last start, Sept. 5 against the Tigers, Shields went 6 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on eight hits and a walk with five strikeouts, leaving with a one-run lead which the bullpen couldn?t hold. He leads the majors with 211 hits allowed.
This is his fourth start against the Red Sox this season, going 1-2, with a 5.79 ERA (12 earned runs in 18 2/3 innings) in his previous starts. He earned the win in his last start against the Red Sox, May 3 at Tropicana Field. In 11 career starts against the Red Sox he is 3-6, with a 5.40 ERA. He is 0-5, with a 9.00 ERA in five career starts at Fenway. It is his worst ERA at any AL park.
The Red Sox have a four-game home winnings streak and have won eight of nine, and 19 of 25 at home since July 10.
The Red Sox have 10 or more hits in eight of their last 12 games and 15 of 22 since August 18.
The Red Sox have hit home runs in 19 of their last 25 games, with 44 total home runs, and with multiple home runs in 14 of those games, and 17 of their last 29.
Jason Bay recorded his 100th RBI of the season Wednesday. It is the second season in a row that he has recorded 100 RBI and the fourth of his career, all since 2005. This is also his second straight season and fourth overall with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI.
With his three-run, pinch-hit double in the seventh inning Wednesday Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 12 games. He is hitting .357 (15-for-42) in that stretch. He is 11-for-27 (.407) in his career as a pinch hitter and 6-for-12 (.500) with 15 RBI with the bases loaded this season.
Billy Wagner, who earned his first American League win Wednesday and his first win overall since Aug. 21, 2007, has two or more strikeouts in six of his seven appearances this season. Of the 20 batters he has retired this season 13 have been on strikeouts.
Jason Varitek?s fourth-inning double Wednesday ended his 0-for-15 slide. It was his first multi-hit game since going 3-for-4 July 30.
The Rays have lost eight straight games, their longest losing streak since dropping eight in a row from July 21 -28, 2007. They have also lost 11 of their last 14.
They have been outscored 22-6 in their last four games.
The Rays have scored a total of 21 runs during their eight-game losing streak, while the bullpen is 0-5.
The Rays have been swept in series of three or more games five times this season.
Evan Longoria has 30 home runs, making him the ninth player in major league history with 40 doubles, 30 home runs, and 100 RBI before the age of 24, joining Albert Pujols (2001, ?02, ?03), Hal Trosky (1934, ?36), Ted Williams (1939), Alex Rodriguez (1996), Scott Rolen (1998), Eric Chavez (2001), Aramis Ramirez (2001) and Miguel Cabrera (2005).
In 15 games against the Red Sox this season Longoria is batting .371 (23-for-62) with eight home runs, 27 RBI, and .871 slugging percentage. His 27 RBI are two shy of Al Kaline?s 29 for the most against the Red Sox in one season since 1954.
Black and Blue
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 with Single-A Salem Wednesday, going 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk, with a hit batter and seven strikeouts. He threw 89 pitches, 61 for strikes.
Right-hander Jason Isringhausen is on the 60-day DL with a right elbow injury.
First baseman Carlos Pena is on the 60-day DL with fractures of his left index and middle fingers.
Right-hander Troy Percival is on the 60-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis.
This Date in Red Sox History
In 1918, with the regular season shortened because of World War 1, Boston's Carl Mays beats the Cubs, 2-1, as the Red Sox win the World Series in six games.
"I told him [Tuesday] night in about the eighth inning. I told him I wasn't going to answer my phone. I said, 'Don't even try.' He fought me a little bit, which I actually really like, but I thought it was in his best interest not to play [Wednesday]."
— Terry Francona, who had intended to rest Victor Martinez for Wednesday?s game before pinch-hitting Martinez, who got a three-run, game-winning double
Victor Martinez continues to impress.
Ted Williams was the inspiration for Roy Hobbs.
The Red Sox honor 9/11 with a blood drive.
The Rays would like to be spoilers for the Red Sox.
Carlos Pena had surgery Thursday.
It was a season of learning for David Price.
A look at several young pitchers in the stretch run.
Ten stories to follow in September.
Was Fielder?s celebration too much?
Although the Red Sox have had little luck against the Rays recently, the current edition of the Tampa Bay team bears little resemblance to those teams. The Rays have been floundering to the finish line. Lester has been the Red Sox most consistent starter this season and one of the league?s most dominant recently. Rays starter Shields has had no fortune at Fenway Park.