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Red Sox In Tampa Hoping To Avoid Both Sweep And More Injuries

(Sports Network) - David Price takes aim at an American League-best 12th win of the season this evening when the Tampa Bay Rays go for a three-game series sweep against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field.

Price, who could very well start next week's All-Star Game for the AL, has dropped two of his last three starts, but is still 11-4 on the year with a 2.42 earned run average. He absorbed the loss on Friday in Minnesota, despite a solid outing that saw him surrender two runs and four hits in eight innings. He also walked four batters in the 2-1 loss.

The 24-year-old lefty has faced Boston twice, going 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in those outings.

The injury-depleted Red Sox, meanwhile, will turn to veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who is 3-6 with a 4.96 ERA. Wakefield won for the first time in four starts on Friday against Baltimore, as he held the Orioles to two runs and seven hits in eight innings.

Wakefield has faced the Rays 42 times (32 starts) and is 20-5 with a 3.45 ERA against them.

Tampa moved to the brink of a sweep on Wednesday, as Carl Crawford's eighth- inning homer proved to be the difference, lifting the Rays to a 3-2 win.

John Jaso and Jason Bartlett also knocked in a run each for the Rays, who have taken the first two games in the series and six of their last seven overall.

Jeff Niemann (7-2) earned the win after scattering four hits and one unearned run over six innings, fanning five despite three walks. Rafael Soriano gave up a run in the ninth but held on for his 23rd save.

"There were some tough innings," Niemann said. "I walked a few guys in one inning and gave up a few hits in another one. Sometimes you just have to grind those out and keep making your pitches."

Daniel Nava and Eric Patterson drove in a run apiece for the Red Sox, who have lost three in a row.

Felix Doubront (1-1) suffered his first big-league loss after yielding just five hits and a pair of runs with four walks over 5 2/3 frames.

"He pitched behind in the count, saying that, I don't think the atmosphere, I don't the game speeds up on him," said Boston skipper Terry Francona about his young hurler. "I think there's a lot to like about this kid."

Tampa has won seven of its 11 meetings with Boston this season, but the Red Sox have won four of the last seven matchups.