ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox finish the season with 22 of their remaining 38 games on the road, but nights like Monday's 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays -- giving the Red Sox the second-best road record in the American League at 32-27 -- provides them with confidence down the stretch.
"We've embraced it," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "So much has been made that we're going to have such a tough road, and don't get me wrong, we have a tough road ahead of us, regardless of where we're playing. But the fact that our guys have let it roll off their back. They've bonded even closer together as we get deeper into the season."
Tuesday night's game at Tropicana Field pits two starting pitchers at opposite ends of the spectrum. Boston's Clay Buchholz has a career 2.63 ERA in 20 starts against the Rays, second best of any pitcher with 10 or more starts.
For all that success, he's just 8-7 during his career against the Rays, and hasn't faced them since May 2015, when he gave up nine hits and five earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. He has struggled this season with a 4-9 record and a 5.42 ERA.
That's stellar compared with Rays starter Chris Archer, who has a major-league leading 16 losses this year and is facing a historic stretch of losing against the Red Sox.
Archer is 1-9 in his career with a 5.82 ERA against Boston, having lost nine straight decisions, the longest stretch for any pitcher since Mike Moore lost 10 straight from 1987 to 1992. Archer is worse this season, with an 0-3 record and an 8.10 ERA in three starts.
The Rays will need him to last deeper into the game than Monday starter Blake Snell, who survived only 3 2/3 innings, setting up a bullpen that gave up four runs and five hits, tasked with getting five-plus innings against a tough Boston lineup.
"We fell behind early," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Blake just struggled to find the zone and it drove his pitch count up. He did some good things getting ahead of hitters, but it seemed like there were too many bullets wasted, leading to too many walks (five). When you walk this team eight (total) times, you're going to make it difficult to win a ballgame because they're so deep offensively."
Farrell said Boston's strong play, especially on the road, has started with excellent pitching, like David Price's eight shutout innings on Monday and what he hopes is a solid outing now from Buchholz against a team he has a history of strong pitching for a full decade.
"More importantly, it's the way we've pitched, bar none," Farrell said. "We've been in a good run for a solid month, and that's what's allowed us to extend any kind of streaks."