BOSTON RED SOX (89-58)
at TAMPA BAY RAYS (78-66)
First pitch: Thursday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Line: Boston -115, Tampa Bay +105, Total: 8
Coming off a walk-off grand slam off the bat of Mike Carp, the Red Sox will look to continue their hot streak and build on the ALís best record Thursday night against the Rays, who will try and avoid a home sweep.
The Red Sox are now 14-3 in their past 17 games and have outscored the Rays 9-3 in the first two games of this series. Midseason acquisition Jake Peavy (11-5, 4.01 ERA) takes the hill for Boston in this one, with a 3-1 record (team 4-3) since joining the team. Heíll face Jeremy Hellickson (11-8, 5.04 ERA), who has struggled this year but is now back in the rotation and coming off a good start his last time out. While the Red Sox are rolling towards the postseason, the Rays have struggled in a big way lately, going 4-13 in their past 17 games. While these two teams are an even 27-27 against each other over the past three years, the Red Sox own a 12-6 edge in 2013 and a 15-11 advantage over the past three years in Tampa Bay. That includes a 6-2 record at Tropicana Field this year. Overall, the Red Sox are 42-33 on the road in 2013 while Tampa Bay is a commanding 44-28 at home.
Peavy (1.10 WHIP) gave up four runs to the Yankees in his last start one week ago, snapping a skid of four consecutive strong starts in which he threw 27.2 innings and gave up just six runs. The veteran righty has 104 strikeouts in 125.2 innings this year while allowing only 26 walks and keeping opponents to a .236 BA. Peavy is 3-1 (team 3-2) in five career starts against Tampa Bay despite a 4.99 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. He's faced them only once this year, on April 26 with Chicago, when he allowed three runs in 6.2 innings, giving up two home runs, but fanning six in a 5-4 victory. Peavy may want to pitch around 1B James Loney, who is 9-for-28 (.321 BA) with four doubles and two homers against him. The Boston bullpen has a pedestrian 3.61 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 2013 with 21 blown saves in 52 chances (60% success rate). The numbers are slightly better on the road for Red Sox relievers who are 14-11 with a 3.47 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.
Hellickson (1.35 WHIP) won his last start, tossing 5.1 shutout innings and allowing only four hits and two walks while fanning four. Control is key for Hellickson, as he has just 120 strikeouts in 159 innings this year with 44 walks and a .276 opponents' batting average. Prior to leaving the rotation briefly, Hellickson had allowed at least three runs in six consecutive starts, with the Rays losing five of those. The Rays are 16-12 when Hellickson takes the mound this season. In his career, Hellickson is 4-2 (team 6-5) with a 3.84 ERA and 1.28 WHIP against the Red Sox. He is 1-0 (team 1-1) in two starts against them this year, allowing four runs with 13 K's in 13 innings. His nemeses have been DH David Ortiz (8-for-22, 2 HR) and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (7-for-23, 2 HR, 3 doubles). Despite blowing Wednesday nightís game, the Rays bullpen has been pretty reliable this year with a 3.75 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. Thatís even better at home, where the unit has a 3.03 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, leading to a 15-9 record.