Ciriaco and Ortiz look to continue their respective hot stretches at the plate as the Red Sox face Price and the Rays on Saturday.
Ciriaco is 10 for 16 with two doubles, six RBIs and three stolen bases in four games since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket last week. His outstanding stretch has come after rookie Will Middlebrooks’ success allowed Boston (44-43) to trade Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox last month.
The All-Star break didn’t cool off Ciriaco, either. He went 3 for 3, drove in three runs and stole another base to help Boston to a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay (45-42) on Friday to open this three-game set.
“He blooped a couple more in there, made a good bunt, stole a base,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “He’s playing a very high caliber baseball.”
While Ciriaco’s previous experience in the majors included 31 games over the last two seasons with Pittsburgh, Ortiz expected him to produce since Ciriaco hit .419 with 14 runs and eight steals in 26 games in spring training.
“He showed everybody what he could do in spring training,” Ortiz said. “Having him here and doing what he’s doing, I’m not surprised.”
Ortiz is enjoying his own impressive stretch, hitting .380 with five homers over the last 15 games. He currently has an eight-game hitting streak, going 11 for 25 with two homers after connecting for a solo shot Friday.
Still, the All-Star designated hitter is 5 for 45 in his past 13 visits to Tropicana Field, and he’s 4 for 22 versus Price (11-4, 2.82 ERA).
Price is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts, and he’s yielded four runs in 21 innings over the last three. The All-Star left-hander was impressive again July 4, allowing one run and four hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings while not getting a decision in a 4-3 loss to New York.
He’s 6-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 12 career starts against the Red Sox, and seemed on his way to another victory May 26 before closer Fernando Rodney allowed a two-run walkoff homer to pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia in a 3-2 defeat.
Price allowed one run in seven innings in that meeting.
“It’s always tough, it’s always postseason baseball whenever you’re playing a team like this,” Price told the team’s official website. “It’s good for us to play a team like Boston coming out of the break. Everybody knows the importance of these games. I try and stay on the same page I was in that first half. Come out every five days and give us a chance to win and just take it like that.”
The Red Sox counter with Clay Buchholz (8-2, 5.53), who is expected to come off the disabled list to make his first start since a win over Miami on June 19.
The right-hander has been out with a gastrointestinal illness, and he started for Pawtucket on Sunday, striking out three and yielding one hit in 2 1-3 innings.
“Not sure he could go 100-plus (pitches), but I think he could go a good, strong 90,” Valentine said.
Buchholz was 4-0 with a 2.43 ERA in five starts before landing on the DL, and he’s 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA in six starts at Tampa Bay.