Sunday Night Baseball: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays AL East Rivalry

The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays close out an American League East series Sunday night in front of a nationally-televised audience at Tropicana Field

Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

The Boston Red Sox are 11-2 over their last 13 games

Boston captured its first victory following the All-Star break Saturday afternoon and is 11-2 over its last 13 games overall.  Over that span, the Red Sox offense has hammered opposing pitchers, scoring 6.7 runs a contest and hitting .315 with runners in scoring position.  The club also owns the second-best record this month due to leading the majors in home runs and on-base percentage.  “We did a good job just grinding it out,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said of the 9-5 win yesterday.  “We just found a way to get a couple big hits.”  Boston is an astounding 30-11 when playing against a team with a winning record and 6-4 on artificial turf.

Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Beckett is 8-3 with a 2.27 ERA in 17 starts this season and will attempt to withstand a lingering left knee injury that kept him from pitching in Tuesday’s All-Star game.  “I could have pitched.  I’m just not comfortable going out there and getting hurt and costing myself starts in the second half,” he commented.  The right-hander has tallied a 5-3 mark and 2.66 ERA in 10 road starts, as opponents are hitting just .187 against him.  Beckett will be making his second start of the year against the Rays, tossing a complete-game, one-hit shutout on June 15 at Tropicana Field.  He is 8-4 overall with a 3.15 ERA in 17 lifetime outings against them.

Tampa Bay was unable to hold a 3-0 first-inning lead yesterday and fell six games back in the divisional race because of it.  The Rays had eight of their first 11 hitters reach base Saturday, but was unable to capitalize fully, hitting into two double plays.  “The double plays took us out of some momentum, because we really had a chance to put them away,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon.  The club dropped back to 22-22 at home and is now 33-6 when scoring five or more runs this year.  Since the beginning of 2008, the Rays are 21-11 against the Red Sox at tonight’s venue and 121-96 after the All-Star break.

Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann is 4-4 with a 4.53 ERA in 10 starts this season and earned a 5-1 win over the Yankees in the Bronx last time out.  In that outing, the right-hander allowed just a single run and six hits over 7 1/3 innings.  Niemann has won back-to-back starts for the first time since July 28-Aug 3 last year and has never won three consecutive outings in his career.  He has disappointed at home this season, posting a 1-3 mark and 5.53 ERA in five appearances.  In four career starts versus the Red Sox, he has registered an even 2-2 record and 6.62 ERA.

Bettors will likely back the Red Sox due to their 35-17 record in Beckett’s starts as a road favorite, while the Rays are 0-4 in Niemann’s four efforts as a home underdog

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