Red Sox travel to Florida to take on shining Rays | RopSport
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Red Sox travel to Florida to take on shining Rays

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In their final regular-season trip to Florida, the Boston Red Sox will try to improve on their previous visits when they face the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays in a four-game series starting Monday in St. Petersburg.

Third-place Boston is 5-7 against its division-best rival but haswon just once in six tries at the Rays’ domed park, beating them 9-5 in 11 innings on June 22 in a game that was more memorable for the major-league debut of Tampa Bay top prospect Wander Franco, who slugged a three-run homer.

The two teams will face each other seven times in their next 10 games each, with Tampa Bay holding an eight-game lead over Boston and the Yankees in second place.

On Sunday in Cleveland, Boston led 4-0 after five innings behind starter Tanner Houck, but the Indians rallied against the bullpen for a 7-5 win despite two homers by Rafael Devers, who has a team-best 32.

The Red Sox won the series in Cleveland and are 5-2 in their last seven games.

“We have a bunch of grinders, a bunch of guys that on other teams they didn’t play that much,” Boston manager Alex Cora said after the June win. “But they’re getting their opportunities to play here.”

With a month left in the regular season, the defending AL champions are trending better than the grinders and castoffs.

Tampa Bay has won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams since that home defeat and carries much of the momentum going into the pivotal matchup.

The Rays swept the Orioles over three games in Baltimore last week, culminating with a 12-8 victory on Sunday.

They finished the season series 18-1 against the Orioles, outscoring the last-place foe 150-71.

Joey Wendle broke a 50-game home run drought by bashing two deep shots — including a grand slam — and driving in a career-high six runs in a 3-for-4 outing for the Rays, who have won seven straight and are 11-1 in their past 12.

“All these games are important coming down the stretch,” Wendle said of the Red Sox series. “We’re going to do what we’ve continued to do. A win now means just as much as a win in the last series of the year.”

Franco, 20, extended his on-base streak to 29 games Sunday by going 2-for-4 with a walk and has the second-longest streak in AL history by a player under age 21.

Only New York Yankee great Mickey Mantle had a longer streak — a 36-game run from 1951-52.

In the series opener, Boston’s Nick Pivetta (9-6, 4.57 ERA) will make his third career start against the Rays – all this season.

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 1.65 ERA overall and 0-1 with a 2.38 ERA in two starts in the Sunshine State.

In his 12th career start, rookie Luis Patino (3-3, 4.53) will make his second start against the Red Sox, with the first occurring on Aug. 10 in Boston.

The hard-throwing righty allowed six hits and four runs in six innings but didn’t get a decision in his club’s 8-4 win.

–Field Level Media

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