Finishing fourth in the AL East may not be a great accomplishment. For the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, however, it would be a sign of progress for a franchise desperate for some.
The surging Devil Rays look to post three straight wins at Fenway Park for the first time in more than eight years when they continue a three-game set on Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox.
Scott Kazmir stuck out 10 in seven outstanding innings, and Josh Wilson delivered a sacrifice fly as the Devil Rays won 1-0 on Monday. Dan Wheeler worked the eighth and Al Reyes pitched a perfect ninth for his 24th save, sealing Tampa Bay’s third straight win and 13th in 17 games.
“The game was well pitched on both sides,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “It really had that playoff kind of atmosphere.”
The Devil Rays (61-83) have finished last in the East in eight of their nine seasons, with the exception being 2004 when they won a franchise-record 70 games and ended up fourth. They were 11 games behind fourth-place Baltimore on July 28, but have pulled to within one game of the reeling Orioles.
A victory in one of the next two games would give Tampa Bay five straight series wins for the first time since winning six in a row in June 2004.
Monday’s win was the Devil Rays’ second straight at Boston, where they are 23-59 all-time. They haven’t won three in a row there since April 19-July 1, 1999.
“We have to play fundamental baseball and we were able to do that,” Devil Rays designated hitter Greg Norton said. “We were able to come out with a 1-0 victory, which doesn’t happen too often in Boston.”
Boston (87-58) had its lead in the East cut to five games over the idle Yankees, who come to Fenway Park for a three-game series starting Friday.
It was the first time this season that the Red Sox were without both Ramirez and Ortiz in the starting lineup.
“I’d rather take a day off, especially against a guy that’s been owning you,” said Ortiz, who is 5-for-34 lifetime against Kazmir.
Tim Wakefield (16-10, 4.39 ERA) should be more than happy to face the Devil Rays for the fifth time this season. The knuckleballer is 17-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 26 starts versus Tampa Bay, including 4-0 with a 1.65 ERA in 2007. He extended his scoreless streak against the Devil Rays to 19 innings in a 6-0 victory at Tropicana Field on Aug. 20, allowing four hits in seven innings with one walk and five strikeouts.
Wakefield failed to record a decision for the first time in 27 starts after he gave up six runs and nine hits over 3 2-3 innings Thursday at Baltimore. His streak of 26 games was the longest in the majors since Jack McDowell had 27 in 1993 for the Chicago White Sox.
Andy Sonnanstine (5-9, 5.73) looks to win his fourth straight start for the Devil Rays. The rookie right-hander has rebounded from a rocky stretch by going 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his past three outings—a huge improvement over his previous four starts, in which he went 1-3 with a 10.07 ERA.
Sonnanstine limited Baltimore to two runs and nine hits over six innings Wednesday in a 17-2 victory. He did not issue a walk for the second consecutive start and struck out six.
Sonnanstine is 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox, pitching 6 2-3 strong innings in a 6-5 road victory on Aug. 15.