Red Sox Baffled by Matt Garza As Rays Regain Some Swagger in AL East


Red Sox Baffled by Matt Garza As Rays Regain Some Swagger in AL East Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon has seen his team fall on hard times of late, but to hear him talk about it is to receive a lesson in patience, confidence and trust.

Maddon knows his starting pitching is and always will be good, so long as it remains healthy. And he was positive an offense that went dormant weeks ago would find its form.

In gaining a split of a quick two-game set with the Sox, Maddon's patience, confidence and trust were rewarded.

"You have to accept the bad with the good," he said after a 9-4 win that saw righty Matt Garza dominate Boston for seven innings and the offense match its best output in over two weeks. "All of our guys, when it's not happening, as long as I see them show up and do what they're supposed to do, I have no problem."

While it was just one win, it gives Tampa Bay momentum heading into a big four-game set at Minnesota, which precedes three even bigger games at home against the Sox next week.

Garza, who allowed three runs on six hits in seven-plus innings in improving to 5-2 all-time against Boston, is slated to start the opener of the rematch. After indicating that he had regained a "smashmouth" approach that features loads of fastballs and plenty of chutzpah, he said he was ready for the next challenge.

"I'm up for it. I'm up for anything in five days," Garza added. "As long as my name's up there I'll be ready to go."

It was Garza's less-than-stellar effort against the Sox at home on May 26 that helped Boston complete a three-game sweep in The Trop, a set that sent the Rays into a bit of a spiral. Including those three losses, which came by a combined score of 19-4, Tampa Bay was 12-20 entering Wednesday night.

The Sox, meanwhile, had gone 23-10 in the same stretch, seemingly putting the two rivals on divergent paths as the midpoint of the season approached. But the combination of Garza's performance and a rally in the eighth — the likes of which the Rays had not had in weeks — may be just enough to turn the tide.

The 26-year-old Garza faced the minimum until walking David Ortiz with two outs in the fourth. He allowed an RBI double to Ortiz in the sixth and left with a 9-1 lead after letting the first two reach to start the eighth.

Although both runners came in to make Garza's line a little uglier, he was pleased to finally have a margin for error, courtesy of a six spot in the top if the inning.

"My boys are gonna come through," he said when asked of the offensive support.

Tampa Bay still leads the American League in ERA by a pretty good margin. It is about as healthy as any team in baseball. And an offense that led the world in everything through the first month of the season may just need a game like Wednesday to rediscover itself.

While watching his team lose five straight series in interleague play to fall from first to third in the division, Maddon knew it was just a matter of time. He also knew that the Red Sox knew.

"We're not going away. They know we're not going away," he said. "And to go through these tribulations offensively and to still be right in the thick of things, I'll take it."

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