Rays aim to overtake Red Sox in finale of key series
The Tampa Bay Rays are finally finding success against the Boston Red Sox at just the right time.
The Rays look to overtake the AL East-leading Red Sox on Thursday night in the finale of a four-game series at Fenway Park.
Tampa Bay came into this set having lost nine of 12 this year versus the Red Sox, going 1-5 in Boston. However, the Rays have taken two of the first three games in this series and a victory in tonight's finale would put Tampa Bay in first place in the division for the first time this season.
The Rays trail the Red Sox by a half-game following last night's 5-1 victory, which saw David Price log his third complete game of the season. He scattered five hits, including a Mike Napoli homer, and needed only 97 pitches to secure the win.
Wil Myers drove in two runs, while James Loney, Luke Scott and Jose Molina added an RBI each in Tampa Bay's 19th victory in its last 22 games.
"We're playing good baseball. Regardless of what it says on the other jersey, we're playing well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Felix Doubront worked 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and three runs for the Red Sox, who have dropped five of their last eight. Another setback tonight would knock them out of first place in the AL East for the first time since May 26.
"Good pitching beats good hitting, right? It's just part of the game," said Boston outfielder Shane Victorino. "There's never a concern. You never want to look at it that way. You've got to go out there and continue to try to salvage as many runs as you can or play as good of baseball as you can.
"Bottom line, we're still in first place. That's how I look at it. We control our own destiny."
Boston has a pretty good pitcher slated to take the hill tonight in the resurgent John Lackey, though he did struggle in his previous outing as well as the time he faced the Rays.
Lackey went into his outing on Saturday versus the New York Yankees 4-1 with a 2.30 earned run average in his previous six appearances, but picked up a loss after yielding four runs and 10 hits over 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts.
It was a similar line to his last outing versus the Rays on June 10, when the righty yielded four runs and 10 hits, including two homers, while not factoring into a 10-8 win. He is 12-7 lifetime versus Tampa Bay with a 4.39 ERA in 21 meetings.
The 34-year-old has an excellent 2.95 ERA through 17 starts this year, producing a 7-7 record, and is 4-2 in that span with a 1.90 ERA in seven starts at home.
Jeremy Hellickson looks to extend his recent run of success versus the Red Sox in tonight's finale with a sixth straight winning decision.
Hellickson is unbeaten in six starts with a 2.19 ERA since yielding eight runs in a loss to Kansas City on June 13. He won in Toronto on Saturday, scattering two runs, five hits and three walks over five innings despite not feeling well before the game.
The right-hander has continued to keep the Rays in the games he starts, with Tampa Bay 9-1 in his last 10 outings. Hellickson himself is 9-3 with a 4.62 ERA in 20 starts this year, including 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two versus Boston.
He has never lost at Fenway Park, going 3-0 in seven games (6 starts) despite a 4.23 ERA.