Damon extended his streak to 29 games with a double in the eighth inning of Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees. He’ll be trying to match Nomar Garciaparra and Tris Speaker, who hit safely in 30 straight games in 1997 and 1912, respectively.
Dom DiMaggio set the club record of 34 games in 1949. Damon’s streak is the longest in the majors since St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols hit in 30 straight in 2003.
“He’s got some tremendous athletic ability,” Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar said of Damon. “He hits everybody. What he’s doing is unbelievable. He’s almost going on 30 games here.”
If recent history is any indicator, Damon should have a good chance of continuing his run. The veteran center fielder is batting .400 (10-for-25) against Tampa Bay this season, including three straight multi-hit efforts.
The Red Sox are hoping to take advantage of the lowly Devil Rays after losing three of four to the Yankees. Tim Wakefield gave the bullpen a much-needed rest by going the distance on a five-hitter in Sunday’s loss.
Boston was forced to use four relievers after starter Matt Clement was knocked out in the third inning of Saturday’s 7-4 loss.
Still in first place, Boston leads New York by a half-game.
Wade Miller, who will make the start for the Red Sox on Monday, is winless in his last seven outings, going 0-2 with a 5.02 ERA. Miller gave up four runs and seven hits over six innings in a 9-1 loss at Baltimore on July 9.
The 28-year-old right-hander is 2-0 with a 3.96 ERA in six starts at home. Miller will be facing Tampa Bay for the first time in his career.
The Devil Rays are hoping to ride the momentum from their second road series win of the season. Jorge Cantu’s RBI double snapped a tie in the ninth inning and gave Tampa a 5-4 victory at Toronto on Sunday.
“Our kids didn’t show any quit at all,” Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. “It was one of our better wins this year. These kids are playing with some intensity. When you start tasting winning, you enjoy it. We certainly have to be pleased winning three out of four in Toronto.”
This is the first series between the teams since there were six ejections and two bench-clearing scuffles in Boston’s 11-3 win on April 24. Two days later, Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling described Piniella as an “idiot” during an interview with a Boston radio station.
“Everything is fine,” Piniella said. “I talked to Schilling when I was in Baltimore back in April. We had a nice conversation and it’s over with.”