Saturday MLB Handicapping: Boston Red Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays AL East Preview

The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays continue an American League East series Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field

Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays have won four of six meetings with the Boston Red Sox this year

Boston dropped a 9-6 contest on the road in Tampa Bay last night to start the second half of the season, but is still a solid 9-2 in July.  “We put ourselves in a hole early against a tough pitcher,” said Red Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald.  “We battled back and gave ourselves a chance to win the game.”  The Red Sox have struggled mightily at today’s venue, dropping 22 of their last 32 contest at Tropicana Field.  The club can certainly turn around that fortune due to winning its last five road trips and entering the series with a Major League-best 27-18 mark away from home.  Boston is 29-11 when playing against winning clubs this year.

Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey is 6-8 with a 6.84 ERA in 14 starts this season and snapped a three-game losing streak last time out.  He collected a 4-0 home victory over the Orioles, tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings and allowing just three hits while striking out seven.  It marked his second scoreless outing of the season, with the first one coming on April 24 versus the Angels on the road.    Lackey has earned a decision in each of his last 15 starts against the Rays and is 11-4 with a 3.75 ERA, including an even 3-3 and 6.16 ERA in six outings at Tropicana Field.

Tampa Bay enjoyed a break out offensive game at home last night, considering it averages just 3.4 runs per game in St. Petersburg.  The Rays have showed some offensive prowess in winning a season high-tying three straight home games, plating 22 runners.  The win moved the club within five games of Boston in the division standings.  “I talked to the team about the one-game-at-a-time mantra,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon.  “I like to reduce it to more simplistic moments and terms.”  Tampa Bay has won four of six meetings this year with Boston and 11 of 16 since June 30, 2010.

Rays starting pitcher James Shields is 8-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 19 starts this season and will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak of his own.  The right-hander was named to his first All-Star team this year, but didn’t participate due to pitching last Sunday.  He has tallied a 4-3 mark and 1.41 ERA in eight daytime outings, as opponents are hitting just .189 against him.  Shields will be making his 18th career start versus the Red Sox, producing a 6-9 record and 4.79 ERA, but is 5-2 with a 2.77 ERA in nine starts against them at home.

Bettors will likely back the Rays due to their 46-18 mark on Saturdays, while the Red Sox are 2-9 in Lackey’s last 11 road starts

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