Few Devil Rays teams, however, have enjoyed a run like the current club is enjoying.
The Red Sox look to increase their AL East lead on Monday night when they open a three-game home series against improving Tampa Bay.
Josh Beckett pitched eight strong innings for his 18th win, and Coco Crisp singled in the tiebreaking run in the eighth to lead Boston to a 3-2 victory Sunday at Baltimore. Mike Lowell drove in two runs and Dustin Pedroia had three hits for the Red Sox (87-57), winners of seven of nine.
“We showed up today to win and we did,” Boston manager Terry Francona told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “It was a tough one, but we did a good job.”
A victory Monday would extend Boston’s East lead to six games over the idle New York Yankees, who come to Fenway for three games starting Friday.
One area where the Red Sox have no need for concern is their bullpen, anchored by closer Jonathan Papelbon, who recorded his 35th save Sunday.
Papelbon, who has converted his last 12 save opportunities, had retired 17 straight batters before Melvin Mora’s broken-bat single in the ninth inning.
“I know I’m putting together some good streaks out there, but I don’t sit there and count what I’m doing or go home and write down what I’m going to do,” Papelbon said. “I just go out there and try to repeat what I did the day before and just try to run with it.”
The Red Sox have won nine of 12 against the Devil Rays (60-83) this year, including five of six at home. Boston is 29-6 in the series at Fenway since the start of the 2004 season.
Tampa Bay, however, has won four straight series for the first time since winning six straight in June 2004. It has won 12 of its last 16 games, hitting 32 homers while averaging 8.0 runs during that span.
Pena’s homer was his 38th of the season—extending his single-season franchise record—and gave him 106 RBIs, tying him with Fred McGriff for third on that single-season list. Jorge Cantu holds the team record with 117 RBIs in 2005.
Curt Schilling (8-6, 4.04 ERA) tries to continue his run of solid outings for Boston. The right-hander has pitched effectively in each of his last three starts, allowing six runs and 17 hits in 19 innings while walking three and striking out nine.
He limited Toronto to three runs and eight hits over six innings Wednesday, but did not factor in the decision after the Blue Jays rallied for a 6-4 victory.
Schilling is 10-5 with a 3.85 ERA in 16 starts against the Devil Rays, going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in the last two.
Scott Kazmir (11-8, 3.79) looks to add on to his career-high win total for Tampa Bay. The left-hander has won four of five and seven of his last nine decisions, picking up his career-best 11th victory Aug. 30 in an 8-6 win at Baltimore.
Kazmir did not receive a decision his last time out, allowing four runs and nine hits in seven innings Tuesday in Tampa Bay’s 8-4 loss to the Orioles.
Kazmir is 0-2 with a 3.42 ERA in four starts this season against the Red Sox, but pitched six scoreless innings on Aug. 14 at Fenway in his last game there. He is 5-4 with a 2.82 ERA in 15 starts against Boston, including 3-3 with a 3.15 ERA in eight road outings.
Pedroia is batting .583 (7-for-12) against Kazmir.