This weekend is providing a role reversal.
The Rays look for their longest winning streak in nearly three years Saturday when they continue their home series against the Red Sox, losers of three straight.
After sweeping three home games played at Disney World from the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this week, the Rays returned to Tropicana Field on Friday night and beat the Red Sox 5-4 in 11 innings. Nathan Haynes singled off Boston’s Mike Timlin to drive in Carl Crawford with the winning run.
The victory moved Tampa Bay (12-11) above .500 through 23 games for the first time since the 1999 club also started 12-11. With another victory Saturday, the Rays would have a winning record through 24 games for the first time in the 11-year history of the franchise.
A second straight win over the Red Sox (15-10) would also give Tampa Bay its first five-game winning streak since Aug. 16-21, 2005.
To pull that off, though, the Rays will likely need Edwin Jackson (2-2, 4.63 ERA) to revert to his early-April form.
After going 2-0 and allowing one run in 14 innings over his first two starts, Jackson has lost his last two outings while giving up 11 runs in just 9 1-3 innings. In Sunday’s 6-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox, the right-hander yielded six runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 frames.
“It’s just one of those days you feel good and you don’t get the job done,” Jackson said. “You have to have a short-term memory about it, and get ready to work and go into the next start.”
Jackson made all four of his career starts against the Red Sox last season, going 2-1 with a 5.64 ERA in those outings.
Boston, seeking to avoid its first four-game losing streak of the season, likely will make a pre-game roster move necessitated by health problems for the fifth consecutive day. First baseman Sean Casey, who had become an everyday player with third baseman Mike Lowell recovering from a sprained thumb, suffered a right hip flexor strain Friday while running the bases.
Lowell, meanwhile, went 1-for-5 in the first of three scheduled rehab games with Triple-A Pawtucket, but Red Sox manager Terry Francona said the team won’t consider bringing Lowell back early to replace Casey.
“We’re not going to do that,” Francona said. “We don’t want to make a mistake.”
One Boston regular who should be back in the lineup is catcher Jason Varitek, who had been sidelined since last Saturday due to flu-like symptoms. Varitek backed up Kevin Cash in the series opener with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mound, but is expected to start on Saturday.
The Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz (1-1, 4.79) to the mound to try and halt their slide.
Buchholz earned his first win Monday with his finest outing of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed five hits and two walks with six strikeouts, one in each of his six shutout innings in an 8-3 win over Texas.
“After the first inning I felt like I was in sync,” he said. “I was throwing fastballs down in the zone good. That’s what I hadn’t been doing consistently so far this year.”
Buchholz has never faced the Rays.