The Boston Red Sox got into a groove at the plate in the sixth inning of each of their last two games. Scott Kazmir(notes) has been providing opposing lineups with an equal opportunity for success throughout his starts.
Coming off another productive game, the Red Sox look to deal the All-Star left-hander his third straight loss in the middle game of their series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.
Boston (19-11) scored five runs in the sixth inning of a 7-3 win over Tampa Bay (14-17) on Friday night, one day after matching a modern major league record and setting an AL mark with 12 runs in the sixth of a 13-3 victory over Cleveland.
The Red Sox, winners of 17 of their last 22 games, have gotten big performances from Jason Bay(notes) in each of their last two contests. The veteran left-fielder hit three-run homers in the sixth inning of both games, going 4 for 9.
Bay, in his first full season with Boston, has moved ahead of Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena(notes) into second place in the AL with 33 RBIs. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria(notes) leads the league with 39 RBIs while Pena has 30.
“You don’t get a lot of good pitches per at bat,” Bay said, “and when you’re not going well it seems like you’re fouling (good) pitches off.”
Boston DH David Ortiz(notes), who led the AL in RBIs from 2005-06, was back in the lineup Friday after missing one game with a stiff neck. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) also returned after missing two contests with a hamstring injury, while first baseman Kevin Youkilis(notes) sat out his fourth straight with tightness in his left side.
Ortiz and Youkilis are a combined 17 for 79 (.215) against Kazmir (3-3, 6.00 ERA), the two-time All-Star who has had a terrible start. He has posted a 10.45 ERA en route to losing his last two outings, allowing at least one run in six of the 11 innings he pitched during that stretch.
In his last start, Kazmir gave up six runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings as Tampa Bay lost 8-4 to Baltimore on Monday night.
Kazmir, though, had one of his best performances of the season April 8 against the Red Sox, allowing one run and five hits in six innings to earn a win in a 7-2 Rays victory. Kazmir is 7-7 with a 3.52 ERA in 22 starts versus Boston.
Jon Lester(notes) (2-2, 5.11), who will take the mound for the Red Sox, matched up with Kazmir on April 8, surrendering five runs and eight hits in five innings. He’s 4-1 with a 3.97 ERA in eight starts against the Rays.
The left-hander has surrendered four home runs in his last two starts, but managed to win his last outing. Lester allowed three runs and six hits—two home runs—while matching a career high with 10 strikeouts in seven innings as Boston beat the New York Yankees 6-4 on Monday night.
He’ll be trying to hand Tampa Bay its second straight loss after entering this series with a season-high three straight wins.
The Rays went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position Friday. Leadoff hitter B.J. Upton(notes) continues to struggle, going 0 for 4 after a stomach virus kept him out of Thursday’s win over the Yankees.
The center fielder is batting .159 in 23 games, .116 in 10 road contests.