The battered and bruised Red Sox have done an admirable job of hanging on in the playoff race this season. But after a weekend series that saw them get swept at home by the Chicago White Sox, time may be running out on the perennial contenders.
The Rays shouldn't expect a warm welcome to Fenway Park though; the Red Sox are not accustomed to seeing multiple teams ahead of them in the standings, having finished lower than 2nd place just once since 1997(3rd in 2006), a year before Tampa Bay began play in the big leagues. Pride can be a tremendous source of motivation and there's no reason to expect the Red Sox to take it easy against the Rays, especially at home.
The Red Sox (76-61, 3rd in the AL East) are coming off a three game series against the White Sox that saw them get swept for the fourth time this season and only the second time at home (in April, in a four game series versus the Rays). They are 3-7 in their last ten games, going 3-3 on the road and 0-4 in that span. Their last win at home was August 25th against the Seattle Mariners. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.27) will start the series for Boston. The last time he faced the Rays (August 27th), he held them to two hits and no earned runs while striking out 10 in a 3-1 Boston win.
The Rays (83-53, 2nd in the AL East) are liable to be in a foul mood to start this series as well, having lost two in a row at Baltimore and losing their first series since being swept in Toronto in early August. The Rays are 5-5 in their last ten entering the middle three games of a nine game road trip before returning to Tropicana Field for three games against the division leading New York Yankees on September 13th. Jeff Niemann (10-5, 3.97) gets the start tonight. Neimann has not fared well in his two starts since returning from the disabled list, allowing 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Angels on August 25th and seven runs in five innings in a loss to the Blue Jays last Tuesday.