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Tampa Bay Rays Vs. Boston Red Sox: James Shields And John Lackey

A pair of high-quality righties take the mound tonight as the Tampa Bay Rays (50-41) continue their homestand against the division-leading Boston Red Sox (55-36). The Rays, who are 5 games back in the NL East standings, are hoping James Shields (8-7, 2.33 ERA, 3.02 FIP) can keep his Cy Young form going in the second half. He finished the first half strong, pitching his seventh complete game of the season last Sunday.

Opposing Complete Game James is the struggling John Lackey (6-8, 6.84 ERA, 4.77 FIP). Lackey, who has been a ace pitcher for most of his career, has struggled since joining the Red Sox in 2010. The 32-year-old veteran entered the All-Star break on a high note, going 6 and 2/3 of shutout out ball against the Orioles. Before that start, however, he went 2 and 1/3 against Toronto, allowing 7 earned runs.

The Rays are certainly hoping the embattled Lackey will make a showing tonight. Lackey has allowed 5 or more runs in 6 of his 14 starts, but also has the ability to pitch a complete game when his stuff is working. If the Rays want to make up ground on the Red Sox, tonight is another great chance to do so.

AL East Standings

Boston 55 36 .604 0 Lost 1
New York 53 37 .588 1.5 Lost 2
Tampa Bay 50 41 .549 5 Won 1
Toronto 47 47 .500 9.5 Won 5
Baltimore 36 54 .400 18.5 Lost 9

(updated 7.16.2011 at 1:21 PM EDT)

Game Time: 4 p.m. ET, Tropicana Field (Tickets)
Television: FOX
Radio: WDAE 620, WGES 680

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.