Justin Masterson pitched six solid innings and picked up his 2nd victory on the season as the Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 7-4 in a match up featuring the top two teams in the American League. The win was Boston’s 11th consecutive victory at Fenway Park, an impressive streak that started on May 2nd. During the run fans have witnessed seven different pitchers earn victories, 15 home town homers, 82 runs scored compared to only 42 allowed and of course a no hitter by Jon Lester on May 19th.
The win did not come easy for the Sox but an all around team effort proved to be enough to surge ahead of the Rays who came into the game atop the AL East. Coco Crisp knocked in the go-ahead run on an RBI double in a 4 run 6th inning and the Sox never looked back. With the double, Crisp snapped a 1-25 skid at the plate in a game where he was originally not even scheduled to start.
“Crisp is the guy that’s been struggling, but he looked good tonight,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s a good homecourt advantage and then you combine that with the quality of hitters, you’ve got to pitch well and we didn’t.”
In picking up the win, Masterson allowed 4 runs on 6 hits while striking out 5 Rays along the way. After allowing a leadoff homerun to Akinori Iwamura, he settled down retiring 10 of the next 11 batters he faced. Manny Delcarmen entered the game in relief and pitched a scoreless 7th. Craig Hanson hurled a scoreless 8th and Jonathan Papelbon came on to record his 17th save of the season, pitching a perfect 9th recording 2 strike outs in the outing.
The team effort was very promising after the club placed DH David Ortiz on the 15-day DL with a partial tear in his sheath around the tendon in his left wrist.
“Even in the very beginning parts of the season, it wasn’t just Manny (Ramirez) and David,” said Papelbon. “Now that David’s out, it’s even more noticeable that we do have a team where everybody contributes.”
Every member of the Sox lineup reached base in the win. Hitters 3 through 7 in the batting order produced 7 hits, 6 RBI’s and all 7 runs on the night.
“They’ve definitely got a great lineup,” said Rays starter Matt Garza (4-2). “They’ve got a lot of pop in there and some guys that can sneak stuff through. That middle of the lineup still has a lot of pop even without Ortiz.”
Carlos Pena, a former member of the Red Sox organization and Northeastern University baseball team, played well for the Rays in his return to Boston. Pena went 2-3 on the night belting his 11th homerun of the season while knocking in 2 RBI’s.
The Sox will send Josh Beckett to the hill tonight attempting to win their 12th consecutive win at home. If successful that would be the longest home winning streak of the season in all of MLB. Their 11-game win streak is currently tied with Tampa Bay who won 11 straight at Tropicana Field during the month of May.
Beckett is currently 5-4 on the season with a 4.30 ERA. After finishing 2nd in the 2007 Cy-Young balloting, he’s been very inconsistent to start the 2008 campaign. After missing his first few starts with lower back issues, he has yet to regain his dominant stuff from last season. In his most recent outing, he pitched well allowing only 2 runs over 6 innings in Baltimore for his first no-decision on the year.
The Rays will send Edwin Jackson to the hill to face the Sox for the third time this season. Jackson had ace like stuff in his first performance against Boston back on April 26th when he went 7 innings and allowed only 1 earned run on 5 hits. His very next start out on May 2nd, the Sox saw a completely different pitcher when Jackson allowed 6 earned runs on 9 hits over 4 innings of work.
If the Sox can capture tonight’s match up they will regain the lead in the AL East by ½ a game for the first time since May 25th. Tonight’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 EST.