The Boston Red Sox have the luxury of having their final seven regular-season games at home. That may not matter if they don’t start playing better on the road.
With their lead in the AL East down to a half game, the Red Sox hope to avoid their first three-game losing streak in over two months when they face the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Before closing the regular season with seven home games, the Red Sox have two more games left at Tampa Bay and three at Baltimore.
Playing on the road has been a problem for Boston all season. While the Red Sox own the best home record in the majors at 50-24, they are just 37-39 away from Fenway Park, losing six of their last nine on the road.
Boston’s starter was hit hard for the second straight game as David Wells lasted only 2 2-3 innings Monday in an 8-7 loss at Tropicana Field.
Davis Ortiz homered and drove in four runs for the Red Sox, who need a win Tuesday to avoid their first three-game losing streak since July 16-18.
“We’re fine,” Boston first baseman Kevin Millar said. “One thing we don’t do is panic. One thing we don’t do is get negative. We believe in each other … pick each other up. That’s all you can do.”
With their second consecutive defeat, the Red Sox had their lead in the East cut to one-half game over the surging Yankees, winners of seven of eight. That is the closest New York has been to Boston since July 26, when it was one game behind.
“When the season is over, we want to be on top regardless of how we get there,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “A tough game tonight. Our job now is to show up tomorrow and be one run better instead of one run worse.”
The Red Sox and Yankees finish the regular season with three games at Fenway Park Sept. 30-Oct. 2.
In an effort to strengthen their shaky bullpen, the Red Sox called up reliever Craig Hansen, the 26th overall selection in the June draft, from Double-A Portland on Monday.
Hansen did not allow a run in 13 appearances for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and Portland, which concluded the Eastern League playoffs Friday.
“He’s going to be a huge part of the Red Sox, maybe starting tonight,” Francona said Monday. “I think it’s important. I think it’s great for his development to be here now. Anything he learns now and any time he pitches can’t hurt his development.”
Monday’s win was the third in four games for the Devil Rays, who improved to 20-16 since Aug. 11.
“The role we fell into is spoilers,” Tampa Bay’s Jonny Gomes said. “We want to be on other side of that. It’s not like we’re playing for nothing. A win or loss on our record can affect other teams and races.”