The Red Sox won all three of their series during their nine-game homestand but did not gain one game in the loss column on the Tampa Bay Rays. That should tell you all you need to know about how critical the head-to-head meetings between the two teams are.
In order to make these next three games really pay off, here are some keys to success for Boston:
Quiet the Cowbells
Boston was able to get a sweep in Tampa Bay earlier in the year but then lost three straight at The Trop in its next trip. The latter result is a bit more like what we've seen of late when the Sox head to St. Pete.
Terry Francona's bunch is 7-18 in its last 25 games at Tampa. It was a lively atmosphere in early July when the Rays had their sweep, and unlike past years the majority of fans were actually rooting for the home team.
Keeping the crowd out of it, however possible, would be nice. At least on the ears.
It's cliche, but oh so true. The Sox will go only as far as their starting pitching takes them and in this series that pitching will be put to the test.
Jon Lester opposes David Price in the opener, pitting a pair of All-Star lefties against one another. Clay Buchholz will take his league-leading 2.26 ERA into the second game opposite Matt Garza, who has dominated Boston in the past. John Lackey and James Shields go in the finale on Sunday night.
When the series is all said and done there's a good chance the winner will have won the matchups on the mound.
End on a good note
Regardless of what happens on Friday and Saturday the finale will be a big one. If the first two do not go well, it could be a season saver. If they do, it could be a statement game.
All too often, however, the Red Sox have left a series on a negative note. They are 19-22 in the last game of a series this year, making it hard to ever carry much momentum into the next set. For a team that has struggled to string together a lengthy winning streak for quite some time, taking that finale can only help to build something heading into September.
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