A pair of victories at Fenway Park in Sunday’s doubleheader could do wonders for the Red Sox’s wild card hopes, while the Rays will close the season series with their AL East rivals simply looking to avoid a 10th consecutive loss.
Four batters came to the plate Friday at Fenway before a deluge forced that game’s postponement, but the teams had a bit more luck Saturday before the weather intruded. Alex Gonzalez had two hits and three RBIs in an eight-run third as Boston won 9-1 in a game called by rain in the top of the sixth inning.
Combined with a Texas loss, the Red Sox increased their wild-card lead to three games.
“It was a long day,” manager Terry Francona said after waiting out nearly three hours worth of rain delays, “but it was a productive day.”
Josh Beckett(notes) pitched five solid innings to earn his first win in a month, and the Red Sox (82-58) should feel good about both starters going Sunday. With Texas also slated to play two, Boston could stretch its lead to as much as five by day’s end.
Clay Buchholz(notes) (5-3, 3.92 ERA) will take the ball in the opener for the Red Sox looking to win his fourth straight start. He was especially masterful in his latest outing, limiting Baltimore to three hits in seven innings Tuesday in a 10-0 victory that lowered his ERA to 1.69 since Aug. 29.
“When he pitches like that, and I’m not trying to get ahead of myself, it’s amazing how good the organization feels about the future,” manager Terry Francona told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “You look at him out there putting up zeroes, and the way he can do it, it’s very exciting.”
Buchholz is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA in three career starts against the Rays (72-69), most recently holding them to three runs and six hits over six innings Sept. 3 in a 6-3 win in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Matt Garza(notes) (7-9, 3.85) will try to help Tampa Bay end its longest losing streak since the club dropped 11 in a row from June 25-July 5, 2007, but it’s been quite some time since he’s tasted victory. Garza hasn’t won since July 24, a span of eight starts during which he’s posted a 4.31 ERA.
Garza certainly pitched well enough to win Monday at Yankee Stadium, allowing an unearned run over seven innings and striking out seven but leaving without a decision in the Rays’ 4-1 loss.
Garza’s .231 opponents’ batting average is second-best in the AL.
“All I can do is go out there and pitch as well as I can,” said Garza, who’s 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA in five starts against Boston this season.
Pedroia and Ortiz have fared far better against James Shields(notes) (9-10, 4.02), who will get the ball in the second game. Pedroia is hitting .474 against the right-hander and Ortiz .381 with two homers.
Fenway Park has been a nightmare for Shields in his four-year career. He’s lost all five starts there, posting a 9.00 ERA.
The right-hander, who was slated to start Friday but didn’t get a chance to pitch, gave up six runs over 6 1-3 innings Sept. 5 against Detroit, leaving without a decision in an 8-6 loss.
Lester hasn’t lost since his first start after the All-Star break, going 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA in nine starts. He gave up four hits in seven shutout innings - striking out eight - in a 6-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
Lester is 0-2 with a 12.54 ERA at home versus Tampa Bay this season after going 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his first seven career starts against the Rays. Jason Bartlett(notes) is hitting .474 against Lester.