(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Rays think their recent struggles are behind them. Tonight, they really get to prove it, as they open a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field.
The Rays picked up a much-needed series win against the Minnesota Twins over the weekend, capping the set with a 7-4 triumph on Sunday at Target Field. Evan Longoria went 3-for-5 with three runs batted in and finished a home run shy of the cycle in the win.
"I think this is an indication that we're on the right track," said Evan Longoria. "We're starting to turn over another leaf on the season. I think everybody is happy to see June go by and July and the halfway point get here."
Sean Rodriguez also turned in a three-hit game, with a solo homer, and Gabe Kapler added a two-run pinch-hit double for Tampa Bay, which has won four of five overall and is a half-game back of the Red Sox for second place in the AL East. They are also just 1 1/2 games back of the first-place New York Yankees.
"The timely hitting is starting to show up again, more like we did earlier in the season," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "It seems like we have to wait several innings to get something going, but the timely hitting shows up and the bullpen has been very good."
James Shields (7-8) earned the win after allowing four runs on eight hits and one walk with two strikeouts in six-plus innings. The right-hander had dropped seven of his previous eight starts coming in. Rafael Soriano registered his 21st save of the season with a scoreless ninth.
Hoping for more of the same tonight, the Rays turn to right-hander Matt Garza, who is 9-5 with a 4.08 ERA. Garza won for the fourth time in his last five starts on Wednesday against the Red Sox, holding them to three runs and six hits in seven innings.
Garza is 7-3 lifetime against the Red Sox with a 3.40 ERA in 15 starts.
Boston, meanwhile, will turn to Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was on the wrong end of the decision to the Rays and Garza on Wednesday. Matsuzaka gave up three runs and four hits in six innings of that one, as he fell to 5-3 to go along with a 4.50 ERA.
Matsuzaka has faced the Rays 10 times and is 2-5 against them with a 4.10 ERA.
The Red Sox were denied a sweep in their series with the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, falling 6-1 in the finale of the three-game set at Fenway Park. Kevin Youkilis homered to provide the offense for Boston, while John Lackey (9-4) gave up four runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings to take the loss.
The loss was just the second in seven games for the Red Sox.
Tampa has won five of its nine meetings with Boston this season, but the Red Sox have won four of the last five matchups.