The 69-85 Boston Red Sox will play their season's final games at Fenway Park in a brief two-game series against the 83-70 Tampa Bay Rays on September 25 and 26. The Red Sox will honor the 2004 World Series Championship team before the first game of the series. They will also try to spoil the Rays' lingering playoff hopes. Tampa trails the Oakland Athletics by three games in the wild card standings with nine left to play.
Regardless of the outcome of the series, the Red Sox will finish the year with the worst home record in the division; they're 34-45 at Fenway with just these two games to play. With eight games remaining in the season, they're five losses away from becoming the first Red Sox team to lose 90 since 1966. Since the end of July, these teams went in opposite directions. Only one game separated them in the standings on July 31, but the Rays have outpaced the Red Sox by 13.5 games since that day.
September 25: Clay Buchholz (4.16 ERA, 122/60 K/BB) vs. David Price (2.58 ERA, 188/57 K/BB)
Buchholz will make his second to last start of the season and his sixth against the Rays in 2012. Through 32.1 innings, he has struck out 28, walked eight, and posted a 3.62 ERA against the Rays this year. Last week, he tossed seven shutout innings against the Rays in St. Petersburg. Price enters the series as the AL leader in ERA and one of the top ten in the league in both strikeout rate and groundball percentage. He has three straight quality starts against Boston. Current Red Sox bat .283 with a .367 on-base percentage in 166 at-bats against Price.
September 26: Jon Lester (4.96 ERA, 160/66 K/BB) vs. Alex Cobb (4.27 ERA, 94/35 K/BB)
Lester will take the mound for the Red Sox in Fenway Park's season finale. Lester's struggles occurred primarily at Fenway this year where he posted a 6.42 ERA and .876 opponents' OPS compared to a 3.38 ERA and .647 OPS allowed on the road. He made only one previous start against the Rays in 2012, allowing seven earned runs in four innings on May 25. Cobb suffered a tough luck loss to Boston last week after he held the Red Sox hitless for five innings. Over his last ten starts, he has a 3.48 ERA, 4.00 K/BB ratio, and .675 OPS allowed.
Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Yahoo! Sports
MLB Stats, ESPN.com
William Menna is a native New Englander and longtime Boston sports fan.
More from this contributor: