With a series against their AL East archrivals looming, the Red Sox hope Bay returns as they try to slow down Longoria and the Rays in the finale of a two-game set Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay (59-48) won the series opener 4-2 in 13 innings Tuesday night on Evan Longoria’s second homer of the game. The Rays improved to 7-4 against the Red Sox (62-43) this year, averaging 6.2 runs.
Longoria has played a significant role in Tampa Bay’s success in the season series, batting .370 (17 for 46) with seven homers, five doubles and 24 RBIs. The second-year third baseman hit his 23rd homer to end a 4-hour, 57-minute game.
“We’ve seen him at his best,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “We seem to bring out a lot in him.”
Bay has nine RBIs in 10 games against the Rays this year and the Red Sox need him back with a four-game series against the AL East-leading New York Yankees starting Thursday night.
The veteran left fielder has missed two straight games due to a mildly strained right hamstring, suffered against Baltimore on Saturday, but he expects to start Wednesday.
“Give it one more day, probably the smart thing to do,” said Bay, who leads the team with 20 homers and 74 RBIs. “It feels a lot better.”
With Bay out, Boston went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position as it had a four-game winning streak stopped while falling 1 1/2 games behind New York. The third-place Rays, meanwhile, remained 5 1/2 games back.
Tampa Bay, which has won four of five, will next face Boston’s Brad Penny(notes) (7-5, 5.07 ERA), who was terrible in his last outing. He allowed seven runs and seven hits while walking four in five innings of an 8-6 loss to Oakland on Wednesday night.
The veteran right-hander is 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA in five starts and one relief appearance versus the Rays.
Tampa Bay will counter with David Price(notes) (4-4, 5.10), coming off the best start of his career as he beat Kansas City by allowing one run and five hits in seven innings of an 8-2 victory Friday night.
The rookie left-hander lowered his ERA to 2.67 in 33 2-3 innings at home. On the road, his ERA is 8.20 over 26 1-3 innings.
“When it comes to a young guy, some guys it’s just a comfort level at home,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “If it is some kind of a concern for David right now, he’s going to grow out of it rather quickly.”
The three times Price has pitched against the Red Sox all came in relief in last year’s AL championship series as he posted a win and a save while throwing 2 1-3 hitless innings.
He didn’t face Kevin Youkilis(notes) or Dustin Pedroia(notes) in that series, and they have been two of Boston’s hottest hitters. Youkilis is batting .619 with three homers and six RBIs in his last five games, and Pedroia is hitting .400 with two homers in three games this month.