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Battered And Bruised, Red Sox Open Two-Game Series With Rays

(Sports Network) - Things finally boiled over for the Rays after their offense disappeared over the weekend. Tampa Bay hopes for cooler heads and hotter bats this evening when they begin a quick two-game series with the wounded Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The Rays have posted just a 12-19 record since their 32-12 start and are hitting .190 over their last 11 games. They are averaging just three runs per game over that stretch, which includes eight losses. Tampa Bay managed just seven hits in its recent three-game series with Arizona, getting no-hit on Friday before notching just a pair of hits in Sunday's 2-1 rubber match.

Carlos Pena had the lone RBI and Wade Davis picked up the loss despite a season-best 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball. Both runs allowed came in the fifth when the Diamondbacks' Gerardo Parra followed a Rusty Ryal triple with a two- run homer, though it was Ryal's three-bagger that led to some clubhouse fighting between Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton.

Upton, whose hustle has been questioned before, seemed to take a casual trot to the ball hit by Ryal to the right-center gap. Longoria and Upton had a verbal argument in the dugout at the end of the inning and Upton needed to be restrained by teammate Willy Aybar.

"The play with B.J., everybody saw it. Some guys were not really pleased and some things were said. It's something that happens over the course of a major league season," remarked Rays manager Joe Maddon.

The Rays' recent funk has dropped them three games back of the first-place Yankees in the American League East -- Boston is two games off the pace -- and both Longoria and Upton have been at the front of it. Longoria is batting .150 (6-for-40) over his last 11 games with no homers and one RBI, while Upton is hitting .143 (6-for-42) over his last 11 games with a homer and five RBI.

Carl Crawford didn't start for at third straight game on Sunday due to a sore left shoulder, though he did appear as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning.

The Rays' James Shields aims to snap a six-start skid that has come in seven appearances since a 5-1 start that featured a 3.08 earned run average.

After picking up a victory in relief versus the Marlins on June 19, the righty allowed four runs on six hits over seven innings four days later against the Padres, striking out seven in the 5-4 loss. San Diego's go-ahead run was put into scoring positron in the seventh inning on a balk call on Shields.

Shields, who has a 6.93 ERA over his last seven outings, is 4-8 with a 5.02 ERA in 14 career starts versus Boston. He beat them at Fenway Park back on April 17 despite allowing four runs over 6 2/3 innings.

The 28-year-old will face a Red Sox lineup that will be without two of its big hitters in Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez as both were lost to injury over the weekend against the Giants.

Pedroia suffered a left foot injury in Friday's opener that landed him on the disabled list, while Martinez suffered a broken left thumb in Sunday's 5-1 win. Also, starter Clay Buchholz left Saturday's start after one inning of work due to a hyperextended left knee.

With Martinez landing on the DL Tuesday morning, Boston added a reinforcement after activating utilityman Eric Patterson. He was acquired in a trade from Oakland on Saturday.

Jon Lester picked up his wounded club on Sunday, tossing a one-run, five-hit complete game, his second this season and sixth of his career. He struck out nine and retired 17 of his final 18 batters faced.

"He threw strikes all day, he used all his pitches," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona of Lester. "I don't think he had an inning over 17 pitches. He was efficient all day and gave us exactly what we needed."

The victory was Boston's third in four games and 11th in its past 15, and featured home runs from David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre. Beltre has a hit in 15 of his last 16 games, hitting .383 (23-for-60) in that span with five homers and 12 RBI.

Red Sox starter John Lackey has won his last four decisions, but is coming off a no-decision on Wednesday in which he allowed five runs on 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

The 31-year-old righty is 8-3 with a 4.69 ERA this year and 6-1 in eight home starts despite a 5.03 ERA. His worst outing of the season came at home versus the Rays as he was touched for eight runs over 3 1/3 innings of a loss on April 19. However, he then beat Tampa Bay on the road with 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball on May 26, improving to 10-3 in 14 starts against the club with a 3.71 ERA.

These two clubs have traded road sweeps so far this season as the Rays took four straight in Boston from April 17-19 before the Red Sox returned the favor at Tampa on May 24-26.