The Rays (48-33) are one-half game behind the Red Sox (49-33) for second place in the AL East, and both teams are within striking distance of the division-leading New York Yankees. Tampa Bay, which has struggled for more than a month after racing to a 32-12 start, enters this seven-game homestand on an upswing after taking three of four from Minnesota, capped by Sunday’s 7-4 victory.
“I think this is an indication that we’re on the right track,” said third baseman Evan Longoria(notes), who had three hits and three RBIs on Sunday. “We’re starting to turn over another leaf on the season. I think everybody is happy to see June go by and July and the halfway point get here.”
Longoria, named to his third All-Star team Sunday, is 9 for 29 with seven RBIs during a modest six-game hitting streak. He is batting .349 at home this season and is 4 for 8 with a home run and a double lifetime against scheduled Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) (5-3, 4.50 ERA).
Matsuzaka gets his second crack at Matt Garza(notes) (9-5, 4.08) and the Rays in five days. The right-hander has struggled with his control since coming off the disabled list due to a strained forearm, walking eight in 11 innings over two starts.
He lasted six innings versus Garza on Wednesday, giving up three runs and four hits with four walks in a 9-4 defeat. Matsuzaka is 2-5 with a 4.10 ERA in 10 starts against the Rays, but did get a victory in his most recent outing at Tampa Bay in 2008.
Garza appears to be finding his groove as he tries to become Tampa Bay’s second 10-game winner along with David Price(notes). He yielded three runs in seven-plus innings against the Red Sox for his fourth win in five starts.
The right-hander is 2-1 in three starts versus Boston this season, with the loss coming at home May 26. Garza is 7-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 15 career starts against the Red Sox.
Boston, which begins a six-game road swing with this contest, was denied a sweep of last-place Baltimore on Sunday with a 6-1 defeat. Kevin Youkilis(notes) accounted for the offense with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth and went 4 for 11 with two homers in the three-game series.
Youkilis has struggled against Garza, going 6 for 31 with three doubles and a homer. David Ortiz(notes), picked for his sixth All-Star game, has three homers off Garza, but is batting .192 (5 for 26) overall against him.