While a playoff spot remains a fantasy, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays hoped to at least make progress this season. Unfortunately, the first half has revealed very little of that.
The Devil Rays hope to end a nine-game losing streak when they continue a three-game series Wednesday afternoon against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Devil Rays (33-49) hit the halfway point of the season Monday with a 10-2 loss at Cleveland, putting them on pace for 96 losses. Although that would represent a five-game improvement over last year, another near 100-loss season is not what the franchise was hoping for in 2007.
Tampa Bay has finished last in eight of nine seasons and is again bringing up the rear in the AL East, 18 games behind first-place Boston (51-31).
“You can’t not think about things like that,” Lugo said when asked if the slump was on his mind. “They’ve (teammates) been very supportive, especially Manny (Ramirez).”
Lugo entered the game hitless in 33 at-bats - the longest for a Red Sox player since 1991 - before delivering a two-run single in the second inning. The RBIs were the first since June 8 for Lugo, who raised his average to .194.
“I think you could see him take that deep breath,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “The two runs he drove in were huge, not just for him to feel good about himself, but for our ball club to have a little cushion.”
Tampa Bay, which hasn’t dropped 10 straight since June 28-July 8, 2005, has lost 19 of its last 22 games at Boston, and is 21-55 all-time there.
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz went 0-for-4 Tuesday, and is batting .192 (10-for-52) over his last 14 games.
Edwin Jackson (1-8, 6.88 ERA) hopes to continue his turnaround for the Devil Rays. The right-hander has been excellent in his last two starts after he was 0-8 with a 7.85 ERA in his first 13 outings. After recording his first win since Sept. 26, 2005 in his previous start, Jackson allowed one run and six hits in six innings Friday in a 2-1 loss at Cleveland before leaving without a decision.
Jackson has no record and a 4.15 ERA in three career relief appearances against Boston.
Tim Wakefield (8-8, 4.31) seeks his fourth win in five starts for the Red Sox. The knuckleballer, who has a decision in each of his 16 starts, rebounded from two poor outings with a strong performance Friday in a 2-1 win over Texas. He allowed one run and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings with four walks and four strikeouts.
Wakefield is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA in his last three starts at Fenway Park after losing his three previous appearances there.
He is 15-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 32 appearances, including 22 starts against the Devil Rays. The 15 wins are his most against any opponent.
Carl Crawford is one of the few Devil Rays that hits Wakefield well, batting .328 (20-for-61) with two home runs.