The Boston Red Sox finally put an end to a week-long slump on Friday, doing it against one of the pitchers that helped start it.
They’ll be in a similar situation on Saturday when they continue their series with the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, as Rays right-hander James Shields will face off with Boston’s Josh Beckett in a rematch from last weekend.
Before their 7-3 win on Friday night, the Red Sox (18-13) had scored only four total runs in their previous five games - a drought that started last weekend in St. Petersburg.
“You go through that in a season,” said Red Sox rookie outfielder Brandon Moss, who went 2-for-4 with a homer Friday. “You face a lot of good pitchers in a row. We’re not the only team that will go through it.”
“I think it’s just contagious,” Boston starter Clay Buchholz said. “I’ve been told that since I was 8 years old. One guy gets a hit and they all do.”
Rays pitcher Edwin Jackson had allowed one run in seven innings to Boston last Saturday in a 2-1 Tampa Bay win, but the Red Sox chased Jackson after four innings on Friday, scoring six runs on nine hits off the right-hander.
Next, they’ll hope to reverse last Sunday’s loss to Shields (3-1, 2.54 ERA), who pitched his first career shutout in the 3-0 win that sealed Tampa Bay’s first three-game sweep of the Red Sox.
Beckett (2-2, 4.10) allowed one earned run in seven innings in that game - striking out a career-high 13 - but was outpitched by Shields, who gave up just two singles while walking one and striking out seven.
“I was watching from the tunnel between innings and (Beckett) was lights out today,” Shields told his team’s official Web site. “He probably had his best stuff today, too. It’s just one of those games where you have to battle with their No. 1 guy.”
Beckett will try to give the Red Sox another quality start on Saturday - something that has kept Boston afloat recently even as the bats have faltered. The Red Sox, who have won three of four, have allowed 12 total runs in their last six games.
Starting pitching has also been a strength for the Rays (16-13) recently, but Jackson struggled Friday as Tampa Bay lost for just the second time in the last 10 games.
Despite last weekend’s success against Boston, Tampa Bay is still looking to reverse a long trend of losing at Fenway Park. The Rays haven’t won a series in Boston since 1999, and they’re 9-39 at Fenway since the beginning of the 2003 season.
Shields has only made one start at Fenway, taking a tough loss last August after allowing one run in six innings.