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Series Preview: Boston Red Sox (5/25-5/28)

The Enemy: Boston Red Sox

Red Sox Record: 26-18; 1st Place in AL East

Series Location: Fenway Park, Boston

All-Time Series:
Overall-BOS; 47-90
Road-BOS; 20-48
This Season-TIED; 3-3
This Season Road-BOS; 1-2

Series Dates:
Today-7:05 ET; RAYS TV/PAX, ESPN2
Tomorrow-7:05 ET; RAYS TV/PAX
Saturday-7:05 ET; FSN Florida
Sunday-2:05 ET; FSN Florida

Series Pitching Matchups

Today

RAYS-RH Doug Waechter (0-2, 6.63)

BOS-RH Josh Beckett (6-1, 4.19)

Tomorrow

RAYS-LH Scott Kazmir (7-2, 2.39)

BOS-LH David Wells (0-1, 15.75)

Saturday

RAYS-RH Seth McClung (2-5, 5.72)

BOS-RH Curt Schilling (7-2, 3.80)

Sunday

RAYS-LH Mark Hendrickson (3-4, 3.50)

BOS-RH Tim Wakefield (3-6, 4.57)

Series Prediction-Rays take one of four

The Enemy: Boston Red Sox

Red Sox Record: 26-18; 1st Place in AL East

Series Location: Fenway Park, Boston

All-Time Series:
Overall-BOS; 47-90
Road-BOS; 20-48
This Season-TIED; 3-3
This Season Road-BOS; 1-2
1998-BOS; 3-9
1999-RAYS; 9-4
2000-TIED; 6-6
2001-BOS; 5-14
2002-BOS; 3-16
2003-BOS; 7-12
2004-BOS; 5-14
2005-BOS; 6-12

Series Dates:
Today-7:05 ET; RAYS TV/PAX, ESPN2
Tomorrow-7:05 ET; RAYS TV/PAX
Saturday-7:05 ET; FSN Florida
Sunday-2:05 ET; FSN Florida

-All games are broadcast on the Rays Radio Network, with flagship station 1250 AM WHNZ in Tampa/St. Pete, and all televised games pick up the SAP feed from the Rays' Spanish Radio Network, which broadcasts all games on Tampa/St. Pete's WMGG 820 AM

Series Pitching Matchups

Today

RAYS-RH Doug Waechter (0-2, 6.63)

BOS-RH Josh Beckett (6-1, 4.19)

Tomorrow

RAYS-LH Scott Kazmir (7-2, 2.39)

BOS-LH David Wells (0-1, 15.75)

Saturday

RAYS-RH Seth McClung (2-5, 5.72)

BOS-RH Curt Schilling (7-2, 3.80)

Sunday

RAYS-LH Mark Hendrickson (3-4, 3.50)

BOS-RH Tim Wakefield (3-6, 4.57)

Series History

-Over the Rays' history, the team has never played on a comparable competitive plateau with Boston. It has lost 12 or more games to the Red Sox every year dating back to 2001, when the two teams started playing more frequently each year. But that doesn't mean that their games haven't been interesting. From the Pedro Martinez-Gerald Williams brawl in 2000 to Trot Nixon's bat incident in 2002 to the brawl last year to the Gathright-Tavarez fight this year, Red Sox-Rays games have always been worth tuning into, if not for the actual game itself. The Rays have won only one season series between these two ballclubs, when they went 9-4 back in 1999, though won the home season series last year and in 2000, as well as that 1999 season. But their real issues have been on the road, where they have had one winning season against Boston, in 1999, and since winning both road series' that season, the Rays have not won a series in 18 tries there. Still, the Rays played the Sox well at Fenway the last time they were there, so you never know if this could be our series to finally put an end to that slide.

1998-The Rays are swept in a two game series at Boston, the first time these two teams have ever met, losing the final game of the series on June 14th in 10 innings. The Rays would lose in 10 innings the next time these two teams meet, and would only take three of the 12 games played between the two clubs that season.

1999-Fireworks (indoors, even) greet the Rays and Red Sox as the Rays open their 1999 home season with a 4-1 loss to Boston. The Rays would lose two in their opening series, but would lose only two to the Sox the rest of the year (including just one at Fenway Park) as they take the season series for the first (and so far, only) time in franchise history.

2000-The Rays split the season series with the Red Sox, including an 8-0 loss to Boston on August 29th that proved far more interesting outside the box score. Pedro Martinez took a no hitter into the ninth inning, but the real story was eight Devil Ray players being ejected from the game, seven in beanball incidents with the Red Sox. Two Red Sox, Brian Daubach and Lou Merloni, were taken to the hospital with injuries sustained in the first (and yes, there was more) brawl. Gerald Williams charged the mound in going after Pedro Martinez following his being hit by a pitch, shoving the Boston ace hard, and then landing a punch right square to the face.  It took several Rays coaches and players to restrain Williams, but more Rays got into fights outside of that, including Roberto Hernandez, who stepped into the ring with Daubach. Manager Larry Rothschild was eventually ejected for arguing vehemently that Martinez should have been issued a warning. Dave Eiland later hit Nomar Garciaparra in the ribs and was tossed, along with interim manager Bill Russell. Later Cory Lidle was ejected for throwing a pitch behind Daubach later, as was yet another interim manager, Jose Cardenal. Tony Fiore was later ejected for hitting Daubach, and the benches once again cleared as Williams came storming back onto the field from the clubhouse to get in on the action. Greg Vaughn was later ejected for arguing a strike call.

2001-The Rays begin the season by losing 11 straight to Boston, but win five of their last eight to make the season series record look respectable.

2002-The Rays begin this season by losing nine straight, win two, and then lose another six straight dropping 15 of 17 games to Boston. They would win one of the final two games to give them three wins against the Sox on the year, none of them at home. On April 27th, though, the Rays are no hit for the first time in franchise history, as Ricky Henderson hits the last leadoff home run of his career and Derek Lowe goes the whole nine yards in rendering the Rays hitless. On the 22nd, the Rays lose a game by a whopping 22-4 margin, the biggest blowout loss in franchise history.

2003-Terry Shumpert hits a tying blast in the eighth, and Carl Crawford hits a walkoff shot in the ninth as the Rays win the first game of their season, 6-4. The win would be Lou Pinella's first as manager, however the Rays would lose six straight to the Sox following this win, including a 9-8 loss the next night that goes 16 innings and ends past midnight, the longest game inning-wise in Rays history. The Rays would play two other extra inning contests with the Sox that season

2004-Scott Kamzir wins his first ever major league start on the 14th of September, 5-2, however, the Rays would win just four other games against the Sox that season.

2005-The Rays end up winning just one game at Fenway Park, but go 5-4 against Boston at home. Lance Carter throws at David Ortiz on April 24th in the final game of a Rays-Sox home series, sparking a benches-clearing brawl that, of course, includes Curt Schilling with mouth predictably wide open. On the 25th, the Rays win 4-3 in 10 innings on an Aubrey Huff walkoff base hit, but would lose in extra innings the following night, and would not beat Boston again for another five games in the series.

Scouting Report

-The Sox come in having lost two of three to the rival New York Yankees, and their AL East lead is down to a mere half a game. The Sox close out this seven game homestand with this series against the Rays, and then hit the road for an 11 day, 10 game road trip, and enter a key stretch in which they will be traveling on 18 of 21 days.

Overall, the Sox have been a very well-rounded team this year, placing fifth in the AL in OPS, second in OBP, first in walks and fifth in runs scored. Manny Ramirez has been a valuable offensive contributor for them, having a 1.018 OPS, while hitting 11 home runs and driving in 29 RBI. Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz have also been huge offensive contributors for them, as each have a .919 or higher OPS, while Willy Mo Pena, Trot Nixon, and Coco Crisp have held up the outfield fort by playing very productively as well. Mark Loretta and Jason Varitek, however, have gotten off to unusual slow starts and have struggled a bit, but both should be coming around shortly. The problem has been the middle of the infield, where Alex Gonzalez and Alex Cora have been helping the infield defense, but not much else in being a constant No. 9 batting hole of doom. And of course, they traded for Doug Mirabelli and gave him a police escort and gave his flight into Logan Airport priority so he could catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

On the mound, the Red Sox have been similarly well-rounded. They are fifth in the AL in ERA, have the third-fewest walks, and have struck out the fifth most batters. A lot of that has to do with Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, who both now have seven wins and are a combined 14-3. They also both have 3.80 ERAs. Tim Wakefield, meanwhile, has been shaky at the back end of the rotation, putting up a 4.57 ERA, while Matt Clement has been awful, as has Lenny DiNardo in his few starts. Also contributing the the Sox's success has been their bullpen, led by shutdown closer Jon Papelbon, who leads the major leagues with 16 saves and has not blown one, while posting a 0.36 ERA. Mike Timlin has also been effective, posting a 1.40 ERA, while Julian Tavarez (ugh) and Keith Foulke have mid-4 ERAs.

Overall, the Sox are a well-rounded team that isn't a juggernaut in one particular area, but has the pieces to make a playoff run. Should be a neck and neck battle again in the AL East this year.

Series Outlook

-Even though this piece is somewhat belated, having been posted after the first game, I can assure you that nearly every Rays fan knew we were going down in Game 1. You have Doug Waechter, the one really black stain on our rotation, going up against the Red Sox in Fenway Park, against Josh Beckett no less. We knew this was not going to be a winning battle.

-Tomorrow, we take on the Sox again, and in what should be a great contrast of pitching styles in an excellent matchup, Scott Kazmir, our fireballing lefty, goes up against the old lefty, half-drunk David Wells, who is known for his control. I think Kazmir will best Wells in this one, especially if Wells continues to pitch as poorly as he was doing before his injury. But this would have been a great matchup when Wells was in his prime, perhaps the best Kazmir has faced all season. Alas, Wells isn't what he was a few years ago, and it should be as close to an easy win as a game against the Sox could be.

-Saturday features Seth McClung and Curt Schilling, which should be a good matchup, if one that favors the other team. Nonetheless, Seth always seems to step it up for big games like this, and against a good Sox order and Schilling, he will need to. Let's just hope Schilling doesn't say something dumb before game day.

-In the series finale on Sunday, Mark Hendrickson goes against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield as the series closes down. We have proven recently that we can hit Tim Wakefield's knuckler, although he still has a long track record overall that says, essentially, no you can't. I see this matchup as a toss-up, and if Hendrickson keeps pitching as well as he has, and luck keeps following him, I think we have a good shot at winning. However I just don't see that happening, and think the Sox will take this game, and the series.

Series Prediction-Rays take one of four