The AL East-leading Boston Red Sox entered the second half of this season on a six-game winning streak, but that didn't last long, as the Tampa Bay Rays put an end to that Friday night. Saturday the Red Sox look to get back to their winning ways as they and the Rays play the middle game of their three-game set in St. Petersburg (4:10 pm Eastern, Fox).
Tampa took the opener of this series Friday night 9-6, getting a second-inning grand slam from Ben Zobrist and six good innings from starter David Price.
So Boston, at 55-36, leads the AL East by a game and a half over the second-place New York Yankees, while Tampa, at 50-41, lurks in third place, five games out.
John Lackey (6-8, 6.84) hits the hill for Boston Saturday against James Shields (8-7, 2.33) for Tampa. As of Saturday morning 5Dimes.com is listing the Rays as -134 favorites for Saturday afternoon's game, with an over/under of 8.5. Sportsbook.com is offering the Sox at +125.
Lackey has been terrible this year, going five-for-14 in quality starts. But he fared well his last time out, holding Baltimore scoreless on three hits through 6 2/3 innings of a 4-0 Boston victory last Saturday. On the year the Red Sox are 6-8 in Lackey's starts, with the over/unders going 7-6.
This is Lackey's first start this year vs. Tampa. Last year Lackey started four times vs. the Rays, and got slapped around a bit, giving up 16 earned runs on 34 hits in 23 innings of work.
Shields, on the other hand, has been great this year, going 16-for-19 on quality starts. Over his last two starts he gave up two ER on 10 hits in 14 IP, although Tampa managed to lose both those games. On the year the Rays are 12-7 in Shield's starts, with the over/unders going 5-13.
Shields has started once this year vs. Boston, throwing a shutout, and four times vs. the Sox last year. Over those five outings Shields allowed 14 ER on 32 hits in 35 1/3 IP.
Boston is 27-19 on the road this season, while Tampa is 22-21 at home.
The Rays lead the season series with the Sox four games to two, with four of those games playing under their posted totals.
The over/unders are 44-39 in Red Sox games this season (excluding pushes), but 36-51 in Rays games, and a lopsided 12-30 in games played at Tropicana Field.
As for Saturday's game Shields has been so good this year it's hard to go against him. So we'll take Tampa and lay the price.