It's been five days since the Red Sox finished the first half of the season with a sweep of the Orioles in Fenway Park, establishing themselves as the best team in the League at the All-Star break. The Rays did not finish nearly so strong, going 2-4 in their final six games to fall to six games back in the division and, really, have been pushed to the peripheries of the playoff race even at 49-41.
They'll have their chance to work their way back into things, however, with a three-game series against a half-strength Red Sox rotation.
While the Sox are expecting to start getting healthy soon, the returns won't really start until after the series, with Carl Crawford currently scheduled to come back on July 18--one day after the final game. Jon Lester seems to be coming along fine, but won't be eligible to come off the disabled list until July 22, and Clay Buchholz is only just now going to start a throwing program. So for now, the Sox are going to need to rely on the back-end of the rotation.
Not so for Tampa Bay, who have two of their better pitchers lined up for the series.
Boston Red Sox (55-35) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (49-41)
Friday, July 15, 7:10 p.m.
Andrew Miller (3-0, 3.57 ERA) vs. David Price (8-7, 3.70 ERA)
Saturday, July 16, 4:10 p.m.
John Lackey (6-8 6.84 ERA) vs. James Shields (8-7, 2.33 ERA)
Sunday, July 17, 8:05 p.m.
Josh Beckett (8-3, 2.27 ERA) vs. Jeff Niemann (4-4, 4.53 ERA)