American League Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, July 26 (All times eastern)
Boston Red Sox (47-56) at Tampa Bay Rays (50-53), 7:10 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Boston - John Lackey (11-6, 3.66) Tampa Bay - Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 2.08)
(SportsNetwork.com) - Being the defending World Series Champions means little these days to the Boston Red Sox who are a distant last in the American League East as they prepare to challenge the Tampa Bay Rays in an American League East showdown at Tropicana Field.
On Friday the Sox kicked off a three-game set with Tampa Bay and suffered a 6-4 loss in the process, the fourth straight defeat for a team which began the second half of the season with four consecutive victories. As a result, Boston is now nine games under .500 both on the road and overall on the campaign, leaving the club 10 1/2 games out of contention in the standings.
The Red Sox actually held a 3-2 lead after six innings, but then surrendered four in the bottom of the seventh which turned the tide.
Desmond Jennings connected on his ninth home run of the season for the Rays and Ben Zobrist logged half of his team's eight hits in the matchup, but it was a three-run double by Evan Longoria that put the hosts in control en route to their eighth straight victory.
"It felt good [to come through]," Longoria said. "It's one of those things, it's definitely nice to be reminded every once in a while you can still hit in those situations. So for me it was good. But more importantly for the team, we're fighting to get back into this thing."
David Price, who has been the subject of endless trade talks for much of the season, collected his 11th win as he permitted three runs on eight hits and struck out 10 over eight innings. Jake McGee allowed two hits and a run in the ninth, but still managed to register his 10th save.
"A little bit of the swagger is back. Confidence is definitely on the rise," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said after his team won for the 12th time in the last 15 games. "In the dugout, we get behind, no big deal, we can come back. It's a really good feeling. It's the exact opposite of what we had been a couple of weeks ago. Really proud of the guys."
Boston starter Jon Lester left the game with the lead through six innings, but he ended up without factoring into the decision. Lester allowed just two runs on six hits and a walk, fanning seven, before giving way to a bullpen that gave up the lead, with Junichi Tazawa eventually being charged with the loss after being pelted for three runs on just two hits and a couple of walks in 2/3 innings.
"Uncharacteristic with him misfiring as much as he did," said Boston manager John Farrell of Tazawa. "It was just off the edge on a number of pitches. It's not typical that you see him walk a couple of guys in a given inning."
Shane Victorino, who a day earlier broke up a no-hitter in the seventh inning against Toronto on the road, knocked in two runs as he connected on his second home run of the campaign. Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley Jr. both produced a pair of hits as well.
Right-hander John Lackey is back on the mound for the Red Sox tonight, shooting for his third win in a row and the fourth in the last five decisions.
Lackey, who is 13-7 in his career against Tampa Bay, to go along with a 4.07 ERA in 23 all-time appearances, last pitched on Monday at Toronto where he lasted seven innings, allowing just a single run on two hits, while striking out three.
This is the third game of the season for Lackey against the Rays, having posted a win back on April 28 when he lasted eight innings and permitted two runs. More recently he went seven shutout innings on May 23, but he failed to record a decision as Boston dropped the 1-0 contest on the road.
Coming back to the big club this weekend for the Rays is Jeremy Hellickson. The right-hander was optioned to Double-A Montgomery just before the All-Star break and is now back to make only his second appearance of 2014.
Back on July 8 the hurler went up against Kansas City for 4 1/3 innings, permitting one run on six hits and a walk, while striking out two in a no- decision.
Hellickson Now in his fifth major-league campaign, Hellickson has a record of 4-2 with a 4.21 ERA in 13 career games versus the Red Sox.
Tampa Bay enters the weekend three games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East standings, but is still 7 1/2 games out of first despite the current win streak.
07/26 10:21:11 ET