Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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Here come the Red Sox, and they have woken up
Posted May 24, 2010 by Tribune Sports
Updated May 24, 2010 at 01:49 AM
By TONY FABRIZIO
ST. PETERSBURG—None of the Rays thought the Red Sox would fade away after Tampa Bay’s four-game sweep at Fenway Park in April.
And they haven’t. The AL East rivals come to Tropicana Field tonight having won five or their last six, including two of three against the NL champion Phillies during the weekend.
“I just think that was a good start for us, something to get us going on the road, and it has carried on,” RF/2B Ben Zobrist said of the Rays’ early season sweep. “But we need to play well at home and really kind of establish that same momentum at home against them.”
The Rays batted only .204 in the April 16-19 series at Fenway, but they pitched to a 2.08 ERA, and 16 of their 29 hits were for extra bases. They stole 10 bases while outscoring Boston 24-9.
Only recently have the Red Sox, with LF/CF Jacoby Ellsbury back after missing more than a month with fractured ribs, shown real signs of life. They’re three games over .500 (24-21) and 8 1/2 games behind the Rays.
Sunday, the Red Sox handed Phillies ace Roy Halladay his worse loss since switching to the National League, winning the rubber game in the three-game series 8-3.
“I never thought for a second they weren’t going to come back,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “They had some problems early on. Offensively, Papi (David Ortiz) is swinging the bat well. (Jason) Varitek has had a little bit of a rebirth playing more sporadically as opposed to every day.
“(Dustin) Pedroia, the heart and soul. I mean, they’ve got it all going on with their pitching and everything else.”
The Rays (32-12) come off a 4-1 road trip in which they swept the Yankees in a two-game series in New York and took two of three in interleague play at Houston. After scoring only five runs combined in the first two games at Houston, the Rays broke out for a 10-6 victory Sunday.
Tonight’s opener in the three-game series with the Sox features Rays rookie Wade Davis (4-3) against Clay Buchholz. Davis lost 9-1 in September at Fenway, but came back to pitch well there April 16. The Rays won 3-1 in 12 innings on Pat Burrell’s two-run homer.
Davis defeated A.J. Burnett in his last start last Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, 10-6, but he is looking to go deeper than the 5 2/3 innings he lasted in that Rays victory over the Yankees.
“I need to be a little more efficient and get contact a little earlier,” Davis said. “And when I get to 0-2 (in the count), I need to put them way. Really, I just need to be more efficient.”
Rays opening day starter James Shields will face lefty Jon Lester on Tuesday night, and Matt Garza will go against former Angels pitcher John Lackey on Wednesday.
The Rays play 13 of their next 18 games at home. This week’s seven-game homestand also includes four games against the White Sox and a Hall & Oates concert Saturday night.