Tropicana Field has turned into a house of horrors lately for the Boston Red Sox, but their relentless offense has helped them already match their win total there from the 2008 regular season.
After going 1-8 at Tampa Bay during the regular season last year, the Red Sox saw their 2007 World Series title defense end in the dome in Game 7 of the AL championship series.
Their woes in St. Petersburg continued in the first two games of this series, getting outscored 19-2 in a pair of losses. But Boston (15-9) scored six runs in the first three innings Saturday, holding on for a 10-6 victory.
Led by three RBIs apiece from Kevin Youkilis and Nick Green, the Red Sox offense performed more like the one that averaged 7.5 runs during the team’s 11-game winning streak last month. The team had totaled three runs in its last three games in St. Petersburg dating to the playoffs.
“We got on the board early,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “It’s a lot easier to play that way than trying to come back.”
The Red Sox will try to continue their onslaught against Shields, who has an uneven history against Boston.
Shields is 2-5 with a 5.59 ERA in nine career starts against the Red Sox, not counting two losses in last year’s ALCS. He gave up five runs in 5 1-3 innings in a 5-3 loss on opening day at Fenway Park.
But he won both of his starts against Boston at Tropicana Field in the 2008 regular season, including a two-hit shutout last April 27.
Shields (2-2, 3.74 ERA) was 9-2 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 home starts last year, but four of his first five appearances this season have come on the road. He’s still turned in quality starts in three of his last four outings.
Boston designated hitter David Ortiz will try to use the matchup to turn around his woeful start. Ortiz is 8-for-17 with two home runs and four doubles against Shields, but he is batting .215 without a homer this season and is 0-for-8 in the series.
The Rays (10-15) are getting a lot more production from their No. 3 hitter this weekend. Evan Longoria went 2-for-5 on Saturday and is 6-for-13 with two homers and 10 RBIs in the series. His 30 RBIs are the most in the majors.
Cleanup hitter Carlos Pena leads the majors with 11 home runs and he hit one for the second straight game Saturday, helping Tampa trim Boston’s lead to 6-5 at one point.
“I thought there was a lot of fight in us, but it’s hard to fight back all the way every time,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Facing struggling Boston right-hander Brad Penny would figure to help the reigning AL champions get back on track. The Rays took two of three from the Red Sox to open the season, but they had lost six straight series before this one.
They didn’t see Penny (2-0, 8.66) last month, and they haven’t faced him since he was with Florida in 2004. Penny’s introduction to the AL has been rocky, and he only avoided a loss Tuesday due to tremendous run support.
Penny gave up seven runs - four earned - in 2 2-3 innings of a 9-8 loss to Cleveland that snapped the Red Sox’s 11-game winning streak.
Boston left fielder Jason Bay’s status is unclear for this game after he left Saturday’s contest with a bruised ankle.