Trying to avoid their longest losing streak in nearly three years won’t be easy for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who face Boston’s Josh Beckett in the finale of a three-game set with the Red Sox on Thursday.
Tampa Bay (33-50) has dropped 10 straight after Wednesday’s 7-5 loss to Boston (52-31), its longest losing streak since a 12-game skid from Aug. 27-Sept. 10, 2004. The Devil Rays’ task of ending their woes is compounded by the presence of Beckett (11-2, 3.38 ERA), who trails only Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia in wins.
Sabathia, already with 12 wins, faces Detroit earlier in the day Thursday.
Despite the loss, there were some positives for the Devil Rays. They had a four-run rally in the seventh to nearly erase a 7-1 deficit, and their nine hits matched their most during any game in the losing streak.
“We are trying to stop all the madness. Our guys are trying so darn hard you could almost see them grinding away between the ears,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Carl Crawford, who had just three hits in 34 at-bats entering Wednesday, had three hits in the loss—including a two-run double in the seventh.
Although Beckett is one of the last pitchers the struggling Devil Rays wanted to face as they try to avoid the three-game sweep, Beckett has been struggling at home. He allowed five runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park on Saturday.
“It’s not anything I can point my finger to,” Beckett told Boston’s official Web site. “It just comes down to poor execution. That’s about it.”
Both of the right-hander’s losses this season have been at home, where the Red Sox have lost in Beckett’s last three starts. He is 1-2 with a 5.03 ERA in three starts against the Devil Rays, all of which came last season.
Boston, which has won seven of its last nine at Fenway, has also won nine of its last 11 home games against Tampa Bay. The Red Sox swept the Devil Rays in a four-game set at Fenway in late May 2006.
The team expects to have Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek back in the lineup Thursday after they all were given Wednesday off following Tuesday’s night game. Their replacements did a fine job Wednesday as Mike Lowell and Doug Mirabelli each drove in two runs.
The Devil Rays will try to avoid the sweep with J.P. Howell (1-2, 5.19) on the mound. Tampa Bay is 1-5 with Howell on the mound. He was charged with the loss on Saturday against the Cleveland Indians, giving up five runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings—his shortest outing of the season—of a 8-6 loss.
The 24-year-old left-hander has made one start against Boston. He allowed five runs and five hits in 4 2-3 innings on Aug. 6, but he did not receive a decision in Tampa’s 7-6, 10-inning win.
The Devil Rays have dropped 17 of 21 since June 13.