After a disappointing West Coast trip left the Sox on the losing side of a series for the first time in more than a month, the Red Sox are back home hoping to once again find their footing--and regain sole possession of the A.L. East lead--against some more familiar competition: the Tampa Bay Rays.
Despite being in the midst of another reasonably successful season, the Rays have essentially thrown in the playoff towel with their inaction at the trade deadline. Nine games over .500 has somehow left them nine games back in both the division and Wild Card races.
The issue is simple: while the Rays have an impressive pitching staff--amongst the best in the league--the offense just isn't there. Facing division opponents who rank first and second in all of baseball in many offensive categories, Tampa Bay simply hasn't been able to keep up. Evan Longoria is mired in the worst year of his career, Matt Joyce has fallen off heavily since May, and the combination of Casey Kotchman's BABIP and Ben Zobrist can't keep them afloat.
If there's good news, though, it's that once again their minor league system has come through. Desmond Jennings is fulfilling all the hype early with an impressive line of .338/.424/.625 through his first 21 games. Can he keep it going against the Red Sox? Only time will tell.
Not much time, though. This three-game series will last just over 24 hours.
Boston Red Sox (73-46) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (64-55)
Tuesday, August 16, 1:05 p.m.
Jon Lester (11-6, 3.32 ERA) vs. James Shields (11-9, 2.80 ERA)
Tuesday, August 16, 7:10 p.m.
Erik Bedard (4-7, 3.55 ERA) vs. Jeff Niemann (7-4, 3.43 ERA)
Wednesday, August 17, 1:35 p.m.
John Lackey (11-8, 6.13 ERA) vs. David Price (10-10, 3.76 ERA)