Following a slow start after the All-Star break, the Boston Red Sox easily swept one of the worst teams in the league. Getting back on track was important because their road trip is about to get much tougher.
Before a four-game series against the AL East leaders, Boston has two games in a ballpark where it has struggled immensely but takes momentum into the first one against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
The Red Sox (62-42) stumbled out of the break, losing eight of 12, but have quickly turned things around, scoring 36 runs in winning their last four. In Sunday’s 18-10 win over lowly Baltimore, they finished with season highs in runs and hits (23).
“I’m honored to be on this side now,” Martinez said. “It’s not the same when you’re playing and you fall way back in the standings. Just coming over here to a team that is competing every year…”
The wild-card leading Red Sox are one-half game back of division-leading New York and play four games at Yankee Stadium beginning Thursday night. Boston has won all eight meetings with its archrival this year.
The Red Sox are 4-6 against the Rays (58-48) and have lost three of four in St. Petersburg, where they have won just twice in their last 14 regular-season games. They did win two at Tropicana Field in last year’s AL championship series but also lost two, including Game 7.
The Rays, who defeated Kansas City 10-4 on Monday, can move within three games of Boston by sweeping this series.
“I think they’re a team that, if you take them lightly, they’ll definitely bite you, especially them playing at home in that dome,” Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay(notes) told the team’s official Web site. “They play very, very well there, especially against us.”
Lester had a 0.90 ERA in winning all three regular-season starts versus the Rays in 2008, but recorded a 4.97 ERA in losing both outings against them in the ALCS. Those struggles have grown worse this season as he’s lost both of his starts against them, allowing 13 runs and 18 hits in 9 1-3 innings.
The left-hander is coming off one of his shortest outings of the season as he was pulled in the sixth inning - when he gave up all four runs he allowed - but Boston rallied for an 8-5 win over Oakland on Thursday.
Garza recorded a 1.38 ERA to win both of his playoff starts versus the Red Sox en route to winning the ALCS MVP and has had similar success against them this season, going 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA in three outings.
Garza made headlines last week after admitting he hit New York’s Mark Teixeira(notes) on purpose in Wednesday’s 6-2 loss because he was tired of opposing pitchers throwing at teammate Evan Longoria(notes).
Garza, who allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings, was fined an undisclosed amount by Major League Baseball.
Longoria is batting .196 (11 for 56) in his last 16 games, but he’s hit .375 (15 for 40) with five home runs, five doubles and 21 RBIs in 10 games against Boston this year. He is 7 for 17 (.412) with two homers and three doubles against Lester, including postseason.