The Boston Red Sox have had their share of problems at Tropicana Field the last two years. The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t had too much trouble this season against Boston - or the rest of the powerful AL East.
The surging Rays return home Monday night and look to improve to 5-0 in the season series against the Red Sox when the division rivals begin a three-game set.
Tampa Bay (32-12) owns the best record in baseball, aided by a 14-4 mark against AL East opponents. That includes a four-game sweep at Fenway Park from April 16-19, when the Rays outscored the Red Sox 24-9 despite batting .204 and striking out 33 times.
The Rays’ success isn’t surprising to the Red Sox, who are 4-14 at Tampa Bay in the regular season since the start of 2008.
“I think coming into this year - and I don’t need to speak for Joe Maddon or anyone on their team - but it looked like they expected to be good,” manager Terry Francona told the Red Sox’s official website. “We saw enough of them this spring where we were thinking they were gonna be good.”
Longoria has tormented Boston (24-21), with a .309 batting average and 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 37 career games. The slugger hit .385 with five homers and 16 RBIs to help the Rays win six of nine at home from the Red Sox in 2009.
The Rays are looking for a fifth straight home win after completing a 4-1 road trip with Sunday’s 10-6 win at Houston. Ben Zobrist(notes), continuing to rebound after hitting .241 in April, homered and had three hits to raise his average this month to .387 with 13 RBIs.
“Zobrist doing what he does almost gives them an extra player,” Francona said. “He’s a switch-hitter who can play multiple positions.”
“You have to do all those different things in order to win as many games as we have,” Maddon said. “The offense definitely picked us up.”
“He’s a good hitter who doesn’t give at-bats away,” Francona said. “He’s been terrific.”
The Red Sox will start Clay Buchholz(notes) (5-3, 3.26 ERA), who’s posted a 1.88 ERA while winning his last two outings. He yielded two runs in eight innings Wednesday in a 3-2 home victory over Minnesota.
Buchholz gave up four unearned runs over five innings to fall 6-5 to the Rays on April 17, dropping to 2-2 with a 2.01 ERA in five starts against them. Longoria is 2 for 12 versus the right-hander.
The right-hander has had one good start and one poor outing against Boston, both at Fenway Park. He surrendered eight runs in 2 2-3 innings of a 9-1 loss Sept. 12, but allowed one run over five innings April 16 in a game the Rays won 3-1 in 12.