A pitcher that helped create all the bad blood will be on the mound when Scott Kazmir and the Devil Rays try to stop the Red Sox’s four-game winning streak on Thursday at Fenway Park.
On April 22 of last season, he hit Millar and Ramirez again. In the next game, one player from each team was hit by a pitch. The final game of that series saw six players get ejected in the seventh inning after several inside pitches and two bench-clearing brawls.
“We made it clear to them, for the most part, in that context, that we were only throwing at guys on their team because their young pitcher couldn’t throw accurately,” Boston’s Curt Schilling said Tuesday on his weekly radio appearance on WEEI-AM.
Tension between the clubs continued during spring training when Red Sox relief pitcher Julian Tavarez punched Joey Gathright in an exhibition game after the Tampa Bay outfielder slid into home plate and was tagged out.
“You’ve got to learn to forgive people. He made a mistake,” Gathright said before this series began. “I just let it go.”
Seeing Kazmir could bring back some of the bad memories, though Boston did face him three more times in 2005 following the wild series last April. He pitched poorly in the last two outings as he allowed eight runs, eight walks and 13 hits in 11 1-3 innings, but did not get a decision either time.
Kazmir, who is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA in six career starts against Boston, has given up just four runs and struck out 12 in 14 2-3 innings over his last two outings.
He’ll be facing a Boston lineup which has scored 23 runs over the last three games.
Leadoff hitter Kevin Youkilis has multihit efforts in all three contests, going 7-for-12 with four RBIs and five runs while raising his season batting average to .354.
“I just feel good at the plate right now,” Youkilis said. “I’ve been working on some things and realizing what I’ve been doing wrong. For me, it’s just good to know that I can play every day at this level.”
Youkilis went 3-for-4 with two RBIs on Wednesday to help back the performance of Curt Schilling, who improved to 4-0 as he went six strong innings in a 9-1 victory over the Devil Rays.
Tampa Bay (7-8) has lost two straight to fall back below .500 after entering this series on a three-game win streak.
The Devil Rays might have trouble ending their skid as they go against Tim Wakefield, who is 13-1 with a 2.96 ERA in 29 career appearances against them. He has not lost in 27 outings, including 19 starts, against Tampa Bay since April 16, 1999.
Wakefield (1-2, 4.34) lost to Seattle on Saturday despite pitching a complete game, allowing two earned runs and nine hits with no walks and six strikeouts in a 3-0 defeat.
He’d surely benefit from seeing Ramirez end his homerless drought, which is up to 51 at-bats. It’s the longest he has ever gone into a season without homering.