Boston (14-9) at Tampa Bay (10-14)

Fair Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 7:08 pm EDT Sat May 2, 2009
  • TV: NESN, FSFL
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Taking on the Boston Red Sox seems to bring out the best in the Tampa Bay Rays - especially Evan Longoria.

Lately, the opposite has been true for Boston’s Tim Wakefield when he’s faced Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox right-hander brings an impressive string of outings into St. Petersburg on Saturday night, but he’ll look to avoid dropping a fourth straight decision against the Rays - winners of four in a row over Boston.

The Rays had lost 11 of 15 before the Red Sox arrived for this four-game series, but Tampa Bay (10-14) has outscored Boston 19-2 in winning the first two contests.

The Rays, who beat the Red Sox (14-9) in seven games in last year’s league championship series, are 4-1 versus Boston and 6-13 against everyone else this season.

After Matt Garza carried a perfect game into the seventh inning of Thursday’s 13-0 win, Evan Longoria’s go-ahead grand slam lifted Tampa Bay to a 6-2 victory Friday night.

“Today was a very, very good sign for us,” said Longoria, who drove in four runs for the second consecutive game. “We hadn’t been able to put two offensive games together in a row, let alone get guys in scoring position to put ourselves in a situation where we can drive guys in.”

The 2008 AL rookie of the year is batting .368 with a league-leading 28 RBIs, and he’s been especially dynamic against Boston recently.

Including the ALCS, Longoria has eight homers and 21 RBIs in the teams’ last 11 meetings.

“We just play the Red Sox a lot, and because of that it’s probably showing up a little bit more right now,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “But I like to believe he’s going to be able to do that against a lot of teams as he goes further into his career.”

Tampa Bay has taken 11 of the last 14 regular-season matchups with Boston and 10 of 11 at Tropicana Field.

The Red Sox had won 12 of 13 coming into this series but have lost back-to-back games for the first time since April 14.

After averaging 7.5 runs in the previous 13 games, the Red Sox stranded 10 runners Friday after being blanked the previous night.

Like his team, Wakefield has had little success against the Rays of late, going 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA in his last five regular-season starts versus Tampa Bay.

In his last two outings against the Rays - the second of which was a 13-4 loss in Game 4 of the ALCS - he totaled five innings and allowed six homers and 11 runs.

Wakefield (2-1, 1.86 ERA), though, has been dominant this season, limiting opponents to a .154 average. The 42-year-old knuckleballer gave up one hit in seven shutout innings of a 3-1 win at Cleveland on Monday night, although he didn’t get the decision.

“I feel phenomenal,” Wakefield told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “I’m throwing a lot of strikes.”

Tampa Bay will counter with rookie Jeff Niemann (2-2, 4.43), who has never faced Boston. The right-hander won his last two starts and posted a 2.65 ERA over his last three.

Niemann allowed one run and three hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-1 victory over Minnesota on Monday.

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Starting Pitchers

T. Wakefield Bos vs. J. Niemann TB
11-5 Record 13-6
4.58 ERA 3.94
72 K 125
50 BB 59
1.44 WHIP 1.35

Scoreboard

Saturday, May 2