Boston (50-35) at Tampa Bay (50-32)

Partly Cloudy Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 87° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Tue Jul 1, 2008
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Playing at home has been the key to success throughout the season series between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays hope that continues as they try to further increase their surprising lead in the AL East with a sixth consecutive home victory against the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

Owner of the best record in the majors, Tampa Bay (50-32) opened a 1 1/2-game lead over Boston after winning 5-4 in Monday’s series opener. It was the first meeting between the clubs since their bench-clearing brawl at Fenway Park on June 5.

The Rays improved to 4-0 against Boston (50-35) at Tropicana Field this season as the home team has won all 10 games in the series.

“This is an intense series,” Boston’s Mike Lowell said. “I know there’s a little history, but I think both teams played good baseball.”

While the Red Sox still own a 6-4 advantage in the series after winning six straight over the Rays prior to Monday’s contest, Tampa Bay is 15-7 overall since being at swept at Fenway from June 3-5.

Boston, meanwhile, has lost three in a row after winning the opener of their 10-game road trip Friday at Houston. The Red Sox had been in first place for 25 consecutive days before Sunday’s loss dropped them behind the Rays.

B.J. Upton and Gabe Gross each homered for Tampa Bay, which has won two in a row and six of seven.

“It’s no fluke. They’re a talented group,” Lowell said of the Rays. “You’ve got to respect that.”

Evan Longoria, the AL’s player of the week after batting .433 with three homers and 10 RBIs, went 0-for-3 Monday. The rookie third baseman is 7-for-33 with a homer and 10 strikeouts against Boston this season.

It’s uncertain if Tampa Bay closer Troy Percival will be available since he left Monday’s game in the ninth after tweaking a sore hamstring that put him on the disabled list earlier this month. The 38-year-old has 19 saves in 21 chances this season.

The Rays hope Tuesday starter Matt Garza (6-4, 3.76 ERA) can come close to repeating his last start, a one-hitter in a 6-1 win at Florida on Thursday.

“That’s the best pitching performance I’ve ever caught,” Rays’ catcher Shawn Riggans said of the effort by Garza, who allowed only a Hanley Ramirez homer during his first career complete game.

The right-hander - 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA at home this season - is 2-1 with a 4.71 ERA in four career starts versus Boston. He is 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA in two 2007 outings, and allowed five earned runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-4 loss at Fenway on June 3.

Boston counters with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (5-5, 3.88), who allowed two hits through seven innings in a 5-0 win over Arizona on Wednesday. He is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts.

“I’ve really felt comfortable,” Wakefield told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “(Pitching coach) John Farrell and I worked on my mechanics and figured something out, and it seems to be working.”

The right-hander is 17-3 with a 3.31 ERA in 29 starts versus Tampa Bay. He allowed three earned runs in six innings of a 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Rays on April 25.

Lowell went 3-for-4 with an RBI and J.D Drew hit his 12th home run in June on Monday for Boston, which fell to 19-25 on the road. Lowell is batting .531 (17-for-32) with nine RBIs in his last eight games.

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Starting Pitchers

T. Wakefield Bos vs. M. Garza Mil
10-11 Record 11-9
4.13 ERA 3.70
117 K 128
60 BB 59
1.18 WHIP 1.24


Tuesday, Jul 1