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.”
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.
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.
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.
Blog Coverage from SB Nation
- Ramirez's single in 10th lifts White Sox over Rays
- AP Interview: Union head Tony Clark pitches for more jobs
- Yankees to dedicate plaque to Mariano Rivera on Aug 14
- Braves sign veteran RHP Carlos Torres to minor-league deal
- Donaldson, Blue Jays complete $28.65 million, 2-year deal
- Moreland's $5.7M deal with Rangers avoids arbitration