Boston has fallen to the Tampa Bay Rays by a single run in the first two contests of this current three-game series at Tropicana Field and will have an off day before battling another AL East foe over the weekend. The Red Sox have lost seven of their last 10 games away from Fenway Park and have managed to lose just its second road series in their last eight. For a team that is already marred by injuries, first baseman Kevin Youkilis gave manager Terry Francona a real scare by leaving last night's game in the top of the fourth inning with right ankle pain. "I'll be good to go," he said after the game. "It may have been the turf and all that." Boston's medical staff is terming the injury minor and believe it to simply be a jammed ankle. Despite dropping back-to-back games on the Rays' home field, the club has still won five of its last eight games here, but remains 7-17 in Tampa since September 23, 2007. The Red Sox are in a tough situational spot, going 2-4 as a road underdog of +150 to +175 this season (-80).
Red Sox starting pitcher Tim Wakefield is 3-6 with a 4.96 ERA in 17 games (13 starts) this season (-430), with the team alternating wins and losses over his last six starts. The right-hander is an even 2-2 with a 3.66 ERA in seven road appearances (five starts), allowing seven home runs in 39.1 innings of work. He should feel highly-confident inside Tropicana Field this season, going 10-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 24 outings (18 starts). Overall, Wakefield stands at a dominating 20-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 42 career games (32 starts) against the Rays (+290), allowing 184 hits in 216.2 frames. He picked up a victory in his first start in July, giving up two earned runs and seven hits over eight innings at home against the last place Baltimore Orioles.
Tampa Bay has worked its way back into the AL East picture by winning six of eight games and sit just two back of the division-leading New York Yankees. "We're playing better," manager Joe Maddon said. "We feel better about ourselves." The Rays have scored 42 runs over this recent span with the team hitting a combined .300, including .289 with runners in scoring position. The club continues to dominate divisional foes with a 21-10 mark, which is the best record amongst all AL East teams. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have a better record in the majors within its division (23-6). Tampa has posted the third-best home record in the majors over the last three years, but finds itself just 22-19 at Tropicana in 2010 (-1,120). If the team is leading heading into the final frame, closer Rafael Soriano is likely to close the door with little resistance. The right-hander has 23 saves (one blown) and his 95.8 save percentage is tops among all big league closers.
Rays starting pitcher David Price is 11-4 with a 2.42 ERA in 16 starts this season (+260). The left-hander could easily be undefeated this season, with the offense providing him just six runs of support in his four losses. He brings a 5-1 record and dominating 1.99 ERA into this contest in seven home outings (-10), allowing opponents to bat just .190 against him. The second-year starter must remain focused on the task at hand this evening, after being named to the All-Star game roster next week. "We still have five more games to the break, so I haven't put a whole lot of thought into it," he said last night. "Tomorrow's a big start for me." Price will look to gain the upper hand in his career against the Red Sox, posting an even 1-1 mark and 4.76 ERA in his first two career starts against them (-40).
Bettors may elect to play the run-line with the first two games being one-run contests and the Sox looking to avoid being swept. This isn't a favorable spot for the Rays being a home favorite of -175 to -200, posting an 8-7 mark in such games this season (-490). If the line drops below -175, cappers must respect the home team's 47-14 as a favorite of -150 to -175 at Tropicana the last three years (+2,420).