Tampa Bay has won only two games against Boston this season, and both victories have come against Daisuke Matsuzaka.
The Devil Rays will try to beat the rookie phenom for the third straight time Wednesday and avoid being swept at home by the Red Sox for the first time in nearly five years when the teams wrap up their three-game series.
Tampa Bay (47-78) is 2-9 against Boston (76-50) this season, including a three-game sweep in Boston from July 3-5. However, the Devil Rays have not been swept in 13 series against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field since Sept. 9-12, 2002.
The Devil Rays, who own the worst record in the majors, lost 8-6 on Tuesday, falling a season-worst 31 games under .500.
In the series finale, however, they will square off against Matsuzaka (13-9, 3.79 ERA), whom they pounded for six runs and eight hits in six innings of a 6-5 win at Boston last Wednesday.
“We were just working better at-bats,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “We were more patient I thought. Made him throw more strikes.”
Matsuzaka, in his first season in the majors, has lost his last two starts against the Devil Rays after throwing eight shutout innings in a 4-1 win on July 1 in his first outing against them. Still, he owns a respectable 3.54 ERA against Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay’s Akinori Iwamura, who homered Tuesday, is 7-for-18 against Matsuzaka, including 2-for-8 when they both played in Japan.
Matsuzaka owns a 2.96 ERA in 14 starts since the beginning of June, but is just 6-6 over that span. The Red Sox have given him two or fewer runs of support in 10 of those outings.
“We can give him some leeway,” teammate Mike Lowell told Boston’s official team Web site after Matsuzaka’s last start, “but I’m sure he would’ve preferred to execute his pitches a little bit better. But, you know, that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
The Red Sox have won six of nine and increased their AL East lead to six games over the New York Yankees on Tuesday. Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo, the eighth and ninth hitters in Boston’s lineup, each had two-run doubles during a five-run fourth.
“When you get something one through nine, it certainly enhances your chances to win,” manager Terry Francona said.
Jonathan Papelbon earned his 30th save in 32 opportunities, becoming the first Red Sox pitcher to have at least 30 saves in two different seasons.
“It’s a testament to how important he is to this team,” catcher Jason Varitek said. “He’s been extremely important.”
Francona said that Manny Ramirez, who went 1-for-4 and has hit safely in 16 of his last 19 games, would “probably” get Wednesday off.
The Red Sox will be squaring off against Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson (3-12, 5.69), who started the season 0-8 but has a 1.33 ERA over his last four starts despite a 1-2 record in that span. He was saddled with a 2-1 loss to Cleveland on Friday, but allowed just two runs in six innings despite not being at his best.
“Jackson not having his best stuff goes through six and only gives up two runs,” Maddon told the Devil Rays’ team site. “That was great. I like the idea he didn’t have his best stuff tonight. That is truly a growth moment for him.”
Jackson has struggled against the Red Sox, going 0-1 with an 8.68 ERA in four career appearances against them. His only start against Boston came at Fenway Park on July 4, when he was pounded for seven runs in five innings of a 7-5 loss.