Red Sox-Rays series preview

May 30, 2014 - 9:22 am
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The Red Sox will look to extend their winning streak to five games and beyond as the Rays come to Fenway for a three-game weekend set. It wasn't necessarily a pretty game, but the Red Sox capitalized on the Braves'€™ defensive woes -- something Boston took advantage of in all four games against Atlanta this week -- to rally in the bottom of the ninth and win on a walkoff error and complete the four-game (and two-city) sweep. It seems like things are clicking on all cylinders for the Red Sox, and that begins with the starting pitching. Impressive performances from the three veterans in the Sox rotation -- Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy -- helped propel the Red Sox to four straight wins. Meanwhile, the bullpen hasn't allowed a run since the last game against the Rays, back on Sunday, when Craig Breslow allowed five earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Since then, the relievers have strung together 12 2/3 scoreless innings. The younger members of the Red Sox lineup came through in a big way on Thursday, with both Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt putting together three-hit games. The ninth inning began with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Holt drawing walks from lights-out Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, and Bogaerts was credited with a single (though not a RBI) on the walkoff error. The Red Sox will have to rely on a couple more young guys this series, with Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa filling in for the injured Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz. Things got a little heated when the Rays and Red Sox met last weekend. Tempers flared in St. Petersburg on Sunday when Yunel Escobar took third base on a defensive indifference with the Rays up 8-3 in the seventh inning. Some barking between the Red Sox dugout and Escobar led to both benches clearing and a little shove from Jonny Gomes. "I did not take any exception when they stole on us last year in the eighth inning of the Division Series. ... I didn't take any, because our goal is to not permit them to score runs," Rays manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com after Sunday'€™s contest. "Our goal is to score runs -- the whole game. I mean, it's always been the goal within the game of baseball. Apparently some of their guys on their bench did not like that. I really wish they would roll back the tape and look at that more specifically." The struggling Rays gained some momentum when they swept the Red Sox last weekend, but that momentum didn't last long as the Rays ran into the red-hot Blue Jays. The Jays swept the three-game series, and the Rays once again find themselves in the cellar of the AL East with a 23-31 record, 8 1/2 games behind Toronto. Here are the pitching matchups for the three-game series: Friday: Brandon Workman (0-0, 3.18) vs. David Price (4-4, 4.42) Saturday: Rubby De La Rosa (0-0, 0.00) vs. Jake Odorizzi (2-4, 4.56) Sunday: Lester (5-6, 3.45) vs. Erik Bedard (2-3, 4.10) WHO'€™S HOT: RED SOX -- Bogaerts continues to hit at a manic pace. The infielder is batting .417/.472/.646 with five doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs over his last 12 games, and has 15 hits in 38 at-bats since the Red Sox inked Stephen Drew to play shortstop. Bogaerts' OBP has reached .388, the second-highest among Red Sox regulars, second to only Mike Napoli. -- A.J. Pierzynski is definitely in the midst of one of his hot streaks. The catcher has hit .400 with two doubles and a home run over his last eight games, driving in five runs and even drawing a walk. Three of his last four games have been multi-hit performances. Pierzynski is batting .279/.311/.396 on the year. -- Grady Sizemore is showing signs of getting hot again, going 7-for-his-last-19 and putting together a five-game hit streak. Even more impressive is the fact that four of those hits have gone for extra bases (three doubles and a triple). Sizemore is batting .231/.305/.361 in 41 games this season. WHO'€™S HOT: RAYS -- Matt Joyce has been of the more consistent hitters in the Rays lineup, batting .281/.378/.411 in 50 games this season. The outfielder has hit safely in seven of his last eight games, doubling three times and driving in two runs while drawing four walks and fanning just five times. He went 2-for-3 with two extra-base hits in the Rays'€™ 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday. -- Sean Rodriguez has been getting some meaningful hits lately. Rodriguez is 4-for-his-last-11, with all of those hits going for extra bases (a double, triple and two home runs). He'€™s also driven in nine runs over his last six games. The utility man is batting .244/.286/.577 with a team-leading six home runs on the season. -- Though he went 0-for-4 in the Rays' most recent game, Evan Longoria looks to be breaking out of his slump. The third baseman had himself a series against the Red Sox, notching eight hits in 16 at-bats. He'€™s hitting .345 over his last six games. WHO'€™S NOT: RED SOX -- The Red Sox are running out of options when it comes to first basemen. Napoli is on the disabled list, and Mike Carp is dealing with some pain and swelling in his foot and was held out of the lineup for the last two games, though he did make a pinch-running appearance in the eighth inning of Thursday night'€™s contest and stayed in to man first base for the ninth. Ryan Lavarnway, called up from Pawtucket for reinforcement, hurt his wrist on a swing Thursday night and left the game in the fifth inning after making his first major league start at first base. Other than Daniel Nava, an outfielder by trade but capable of playing first, the Red Sox don'€™t have a lot of options. Alex Hassan, who is on the 40-man roster, has played 19 games at first base in his professional career and represents a possible option if the Red Sox see a need. -- Lavarnway hasn't been able to do too much with the opportunity to grab some major league playing time. The 26-year-old has gone 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play in his limited at-bats before being sidelined with the injury. -- Nava has yet to show any evidence that he'€™s returning to form. The outfielder doesn't have a hit since being recalled on May 24 and has reached base just once with a walk (though it was a walk that sparked a late-inning rally in the 8-6 victory over the Braves, the one that snapped the losing streak). Nava's line has fallen to .130/.221/.234 in the majors this season. WHO'€™S NOT: RAYS -- Bedard was shelled in his most recent outing, allowing eight runs on 13 hits, which represented a career high for the 11-year veteran. Otherwise, the 35-year-old has been solid; he posted a 2.63 ERA through his first eight outings (seven starts) but that number jumped to 4.10 with the disastrous performance in his last start. -- Will Myers can'€™t seem to break out of his slump, going 2-for-21 in his last seven games and batting just .105/.255/.184 with one extra-base hit (a home run) over his last 12 contests. Myers'€™ five home runs and just one stolen base in 52 games is quite a bit off the pace he set last season, when he clubbed 13 home runs and swiped five bags in 88 games. -- Escobar, who was one of three players ejected from Sunday'€™s game, has slowed down a bit over the last week. After hitting .333 with six RBIs in 12 games, Escobar has just four hits in his last 23 at-bats, though he has drawn three walks while striking out just once.

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