MLB

Preview: Rays seek offensive punch as 2-game series vs. Red Sox concludes

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If the Tampa Bay offense were doing nearly as well as the Rays' pitching staff, the team would be on a roll.

However, the Rays are in an offensive slump as they face the red-hot Boston Red Sox on Wednesday at Tropicana Field.

Rick Porcello (5-14, 4.70 ERA) will try to pitch the Red Sox to their eighth consecutive victory.

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Boston (64-49) won the opener of the two-game series 2-0 on Tuesday behind a 13-strikeout performance from Chris Sale. The Red Sox opened a four-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the American League East, while the Rays slipped into a three-way tie for the second AL wild card with the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Mariners.

Tampa Bay (58-56) has struggled to get anything going in the past four games. The Rays managed only two runs in a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers, getting shut out twice before getting shut down again Tuesday.

All the while, the Rays are getting strong outings from their rotation. Austin Pruitt gave up only one run in six innings Tuesday. The Wednesday starter, Jake Odorizzi (6-4, 4.47 ERA), hopes to keep that going as he makes his first start since being place on the 10-day disabled list July 24 due to a lower back strain.

"You want to win these games," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We need to find a way to win when our pitchers do so well. The offense is going to get going. We ran into a little buzz saw against Milwaukee, and Chris Sale is the biggest buzz saw."

The Rays only had two hits and four baserunners total Tuesday. Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said it is time to figure out ways to manufacture runs and scratch across something to help the pitching staff.

"There's so much baseball left to be played, and this is a tough stretch," Souza said. "We haven't really had that tough of a stretch up until this point. … If we thought it was going to be easy, it wasn't. If we thought there weren't going to be any bumps in the road, we were mistaken. We've just got to come together collectively and start to get going."

The same can be said for Porcello, the 2016 AL Cy Young winner. He is 1-4 in his last five starts but also has been the victim of some bad luck. In the four losses, he compiled a 2.79 ERA, pitching at least six innings each time and lasting eight innings twice.

His only win in his past seven starts was his most recent outing, when he gave up five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox.

Porcello is 10-7 with a 3.43 ERA in 20 career starts against the Rays.

The Red Sox have figured out how to get some offense going despite facing tough pitchers. Eduardo Nunez is hitting .422 since he was acquired from the San Francisco Giants in a trade. Dustin Pedroia was activated Tuesday from the disabled list and is likely to serve as the designated hitter again Wednesday. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and a run in the series-opening win.

According to Red Sox manager John Farrell, Pedroia likely will return to the field by the weekend.

"It's kind of a gradual buildup," Farrell said. "We'll see how he comes out of (Tuesday), and then with Thursday's off day, we'll have a chance to maybe use him at both spots."

Odorizzi yielded seven runs in 4 1/3 innings of an 8-3 loss to Boston on July 7. He is 3-4 with a 4.68 ERA in 15 starts versus the Red Sox.