Boston (49-34) at Tampa Bay (49-33)

Fair Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 58° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Tue Jul 6, 2010
  • TV: NESN, SUN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Although the Tampa Bay Rays moved into second place in the AL East in the opener of this key series against the Boston Red Sox, their bullpen sure could use some rest.

Jeff Niemann(notes) hopes to aid in that cause for the Rays on Tuesday night when they play the middle game at Tropicana Field against the Red Sox.

Tampa Bay (49-33) has won three straight, winning 6-5 over Boston (49-34) on Monday to move one-half game ahead of the Red Sox for second place in the division behind the defending World Series champion New York Yankees.

“I like the way we’re playing,” said manager Joe Maddon, whose club has won five of six.

The three wins have largely been a by-product of strong work from Tampa Bay’s relievers, who have logged 13 2-3 innings and posted a 1.98 ERA in that span. Six pitchers combined to allow one run in six innings in relief of an ineffective Matt Garza(notes) on Monday as the Rays rallied from a 5-1 deficit.

“That’s a fantastic job by the bullpen,” Maddon said. “And the offense chipped away.”

Closer Rafael Soriano(notes), snubbed for the AL All-Star team, has pitched one scoreless inning to earn saves in each victory, bringing his total to 22. Soriano may not be available Tuesday.

The Rays will look for a strong outing from Niemann (6-2, 2.80 ERA), who is 0-2 with a 3.81 ERA in his last four games after starting 6-0 with a 2.48 ERA in his first 12. Niemann allowed three runs over 6 2-3 innings Thursday in a 5-4, 10-inning win at Minnesota.

The right-hander has pitched at least six innings in 15 straight starts. He earned his first career win over Boston on April 19 by giving up two runs over seven innings in an 8-2 road victory.

Tampa Bay improved to 6-4 against Boston with Monday’s win as Carl Crawford(notes) continued his recent surge with three hits. Crawford is 15 for 35 with seven runs scored over his last seven games.

Center fielder B.J. Upton(notes), who missed three games last week with a right quadriceps injury, did not start Monday. Maddon cited Upton’s .077 average against Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) as the reason.

“He’s back in there tomorrow and the rest of the week, but today, I just thought it was the right thing to do,” Maddon told the Rays’ official website.

The injury-plagued Red Sox got two home runs from Eric Patterson(notes) in their first loss in four games at Tropicana Field this season.

Boston will recall Felix Doubront(notes) (1-0, 5.40) from Triple-A Pawtucket to make his second career start. Doubront is replacing All-Star Clay Buchholz(notes), who was placed the 15-day disabled list Monday because of a strained left hamstring.

Doubront won his major league debut June 18, allowing five runs - three earned - over five innings in Boston’s 10-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I feel more confident, more relaxed this time,” Doubront said.

The 22-year-old left-hander went 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA in Double- and Triple-A this season.

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Starting Pitchers

F. Doubront OAK vs. J. Niemann TB
2-2 Record 12-8
4.32 ERA 4.39
23 K 131
10 BB 61
1.48 WHIP 1.26

Scoreboard

Tuesday, Jul 6