Boston (22-16) at Tampa Bay (10-26)

Fair Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 76° F
  • Game info: 7:15 pm EDT Tue May 18, 2004
  • TV: NESN, WPXM
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Boston Red Sox are coming off their first day off since April 26. Past history suggests they could be in for another when they open a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The Red Sox are 61-33 all-time against the Devil Rays, who joined the league in 1998. Boston is actually one game better on the road in this series, winning 31 of 48 games at Tropicana Field.

Boston concluded a stretch of 20 straight games with 10 wins, but is coming off a 3-1 loss in Toronto on Sunday. The Red Sox spent Monday in St. Petersburg, Fla., where they enjoyed a little rest and relaxation before the final leg of their seven-game road trip.

“It seems like a long time since we’ve had (a day off),” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. ”(St. Petersburg) is a great place to have an off day. You can sit by the pool. … It will be good. We need it.”

The Red Sox, who spent most of April in first place in the AL East, have lost 10 of their last 17 to fall a half-game behind the archrival New York Yankees. They started their stretch of 20 straight games with a three-game sweep of the Devil Rays at Fenway Park.

“No doubt about it. This team has been going and going and going,” outfielder Kevin Millar said. “This has been the worst travel I’ve ever seen. We’ve gotten into three cities at 4 in the morning or later. I think definitely we need the off day. It gives you a chance to heal up and get going again.”

Boston’s dominance of Tampa Bay has been more apparent since 2001. The Red Sox have won 45 of 60 meetings in that span, including 22 of 29 at Tropicana Field.

Tim Wakefield has played a big role in that mastery. The veteran knuckleballer is 8-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 21 career appearances, including 11 starts, against Tampa Bay. He’s 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his career at Tropicana Field.

The Devil Rays come into the series in very bad shape. Tampa Bay has dropped 17 of its last 20, including a 10-0 loss at Cleveland on Sunday. The Devil Rays are only the seventh team since 1900 to go this deep into the season without a two-game winning streak.

Despite the team’s struggles, shortstop Julio Lugo continues to impress. Through 35 games, Lugo is batting .284 with 11 doubles, four homers and 23 RBIs. Only Texas’ Michael Young and Baltimore’s Miguel Tejada, who both have 30, are ahead of Lugo in RBIs among shortstops. Only Young has more homers (eight) and only the New York Mets’ Kaz Matsui has more doubles (13).

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Starting Pitchers

T. Wakefield Bos vs. M. Hendrickson Bal
12-10 Record 10-15
4.87 ERA 4.81
116 K 87
63 BB 46
1.38 WHIP 1.40