The Red Sox kept their fleeting postseason hopes alive in the opener of this set on Monday, as rookie Ryan Kalish belted his second grand slam and David Ortiz also went deep, propelling Boston to a 12-5 win.
With this being the final series for Boston against the Rays, it's imperative that the Red Sox sweep to continue hopes for a postseason spot. Monday's win moved Boston within 6 1/2 games of the Rays for the wild card lead. Chicago is six back.
Jon Lester (16-8) struck out exactly 10 batters for a third straight game, all victories. The lefty limited the Rays to four hits and two runs over six innings.
Ortiz and Adrian Beltre hit back-to-back homers in the first inning for Boston, which was swept at home by the White Sox in a three-game series over the weekend. Victor Martinez added a two-run single in the second.
"I think after the first I got in a little bit better rhythm," Lester said. "Vick did a good job kind of controlling that. It makes pitching easier when guys go out and score runs like we did tonight."
The Rays remained 2 1/2 games behind the first- place New York Yankees in the AL East.
Jeff Niemann (10-6) was pounded for a third straight start. This time the right-hander surrendered four hits and six runs over 1 2/3 frames. He's given up 19 hits and 23 runs over his last three outings for an ERA of 20.70 in that span.
"Command was off, big time," Niemann said. "I went into a lot of bad counts and they were sitting on some pitches."
Hoping to turn things around tonight for Tampa will be left-hander David Price, who is 16-6 with a 2.92 earned run average. Price won for the first time in four starts on Wednesday against Toronto, as he held the Jays to a run and four hits in eight innings. He also struck out seven in the win.
Price lost to the Red Sox the last time he faced them and is 2-2 in four starts against Boston with a 3.81 ERA.
Boston will counter with Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is 9-4 on the year with a 4.29 ERA. MAtsuzaka beat the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, as he allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Matsuzaka has faced the Rays 11 times and is 2-5 against them with a 4.34 ERA.
Tampa is 10-6 against the Red Sox this season.