ESPN Wednesday MLB Preview: Rays at Red Sox

The Rays look to officially bury the Red Sox in the playoff race with the series finale at Fenway Park in front of an ESPN audience.

Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox

Tampa Bay’s impressive 14-5 victory over the Red Sox on Tuesday pushed their lead in the Wild Card race to 7 1/2 games.  Also by winning, the Rays snapped a three-game losing streak while picking up a game on the Yankees, moving them within 1 1/2 games of the American League East leaders.  “Winning beats losing,” said manager Joe Maddon.  The offense was led by outfielder Carl Crawford’s career-high three doubles, as he compiled his Major League-leading eighth four-hit game of the season.  It’s important to note that with yesterday’s win, the club has not tied last year’s win total and the team is 265-197 since the start of the 2008 season.  Tampa Bay is 35-23 against division opponents (+610) and the total is 31-26 O/U in those contests.  The team will be playing its 15th game as a road underdog of +100 to +125, posting a 6-8 record in the previous 14 instances (-140).

Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza is 14-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) this season and the team has won his last four starts overall.  In those games, he has allowed three runs and 20 hits over 27 1/3 innings, while the club has outscored the opposition by a 20-4 margin.  The right-hander has a solid 7-5 record and 3.66 ERA in 14 road starts, issuing 28 free passes and collecting 61 strikeouts in 93.1 frames.  He has made nine starts since the All-Star break, compiling a 4-2 mark and 2.42 ERA compared to a 10-5 record and 4.05 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) during the first half.  In 18 career games (17 starts) versus the Red Sox, Garza is 7-3 with a 3.48 ERA, including a 2-1 record and 4.11 ERA in six outings already in 2010.

Boston initially had plans of starting young right-hander Clay Buchholz on three day’s rest for the series finale, but manager Terry Francona announced following Tuesday’s loss that veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will take the ball instead.  “Obviously, it doesn’t look good at all,” said catcher Victor Martinez.  “But I mean, we still have to go out there and keep playing.”  The Red Sox are still 41-30 at home (-360) and have won 27 of their last 44 games at Fenway Park.  The club is also an impressive 17-11 against the Rays at home dating back to September 11, 2007.  Boston doesn’t fare to well at home with the money line of -100 to -125, posting a 4-8 record in 2010 (-520) and 17-22 mark over the last three seasons (-840).

Red Sox starting pitcher Tim Wakefield is 3-10 with a 5.19 ERA in 28 games (17 starts) this season and hasn’t picked up a victory since July 2.  He worked two scoreless innings in relief in his last outing at home against the White Sox, scattering just two hits and picking up a strikeout.  The right-hander is a dismal 1-6 with a 5.82 ERA in 17 games (10 starts) at home, but has issued just 17 walks while collecting 43 punch outs in 72.2 frames.  In 43 career games (33 starts) versus Tampa Bay, Wakefield has a tremendous 20-6 record and 3.60 ERA, including a 10-4 mark and 3.40 ERA in 25 appearances (19 starts) at Tropicana Field.

Bettors may get the impression from Red Sox players that the season is officially over, which makes it hard to back them in this contest.  Tampa Bay is 12-3 in Garza’s last 15 starts versus the Red Sox and a perfect 4-0 in the last four meetings with him on the mound against Wakefield.

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