Rays-Red Sox Preview

The Associated PressMay 26, 2012

Designated hitter Luke Scott didn't do much hitting in the Tampa Bay Rays' series opener against the Boston Red Sox. Instead, he got hit - and the benches cleared as a result.

He appears to have a good chance to turn the tables given his history against Josh Beckett.

Scott, Carlos Pena, Matt Joyce and the rest of the Rays will take their hacks against Beckett on Saturday night as visiting Tampa Bay looks for a fourth straight win.

Scott hasn't yet had a great effect on the outcomes of the games between the Rays (28-18) and Red Sox in 2012 - his two homers when Tampa Bay visited Fenway Park last month both came in losses - but he's done plenty to stoke the flames of this AL East rivalry. Scott, who badmouthed Boston fans in spring training and then publicly called Fenway a "dump" shortly before the Rays visited in April, went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in Friday's series opener, a 7-4 win for the Rays.

His four hitless at-bats won't be remembered for long, but after Scott got hit by a Franklin Morales pitch in the top of the ninth, the benches and bullpens cleared and several heated exchanges took place.

"I had a little adrenaline going and the guys had some adrenaline going, so that's good. Nothing wrong with that," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. "Maybe it was the ghost of Fenway past remembering that he bad-mouthed all our fans and our stadium or something, just directing the ball at his leg.''

Rays manager Joe Maddon was not amused.

"To be really carelessly incompetent on their side and truly try to hit someone and throw behind somebody and hitting them in the leg for all the wrong reasons eventually they can get their own guys hurt," Maddon said. "That was ridiculous. It was absurd, idiotic. I'll use all those words.

"Our guys got it. We had every reason to be totally into the push-back right there. We didn't start anything. We don't start stuff. We'll finish stuff, but we don't start it.''

Scott may be able to let his bat do the talking against Beckett (4-4, 4.38 ERA), as he's 10 for 24 in their matchups with three homers, five walks and a .517 on-base percentage - highest of any player with at least 20 career plate appearances versus the right-hander.

Pena is 4 for 32 with 17 strikeouts against Beckett, but is swinging a hot bat right now. Pena homered Friday, and is 4 for 12 with two homers, four RBIs and five runs scored in three games since Maddon moved the hulking first baseman into the leadoff spot.

The Rays have won all three of those games after dropping four of their previous five.

Friday's loss marked the fifth time this season Boston (22-23) had a chance to move above the .500 mark and failed. The Red Sox have still won 10 of 14 overall, with Beckett earning two of those victories.

Beckett has allowed one run over 14 2-3 innings to defeat Seattle and Philadelphia. That's a striking turnaround from his May 10 start, when he surrendered seven in 2 1-3 innings of a loss to Cleveland and got booed off the mound following news that he had played golf while skipping a start to rest a strained lat muscle.

Beckett's first win of 2012 came against the Rays on April 13, when he limited them to one run and five hits in a season-high eight innings of a 12-2 victory. He defeated David Price (6-3, 2.88), who will get the ball again for Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Price yielded three runs in a season-low three innings while losing to Beckett last month, but has lasted through the seventh in each of his last four starts. The left-hander held Atlanta to two runs - one earned - over seven innings Sunday, but received no support and got saddled with a 2-0 loss to Tim Hudson.

Joyce provided the biggest blow Friday with his second grand slam in six games. He's batting .421 (8 for 19) in the season series with Boston with at least one hit in all seven games, but is 1 for 15 with five strikeouts against Beckett.