Red Sox-Rays Preview

After slumping through most of June, the Tampa Bay Rays have

regained their swagger.

Somewhat surprising, however, is their only loss in the past

week came with their best pitcher on the mound.

David Price, a tough-luck loser in his last outing, looks to

lead the surging Rays to a fifth consecutive victory Wednesday

night and a sweep over the Boston Red Sox.

A 5-12 stretch from June 10-29 dropped Tampa Bay (50-33) from

first place to third in the AL East. By winning six of seven since,

the Rays have climbed back into second and pulled within two games

of division-leading New York.

“I just think we’re getting proverbial mojo back,” Tampa Bay

manager Joe Maddon said following Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the

third-place Red Sox (49-35). “We’re playing better. We feel better

about ourselves. The confidence is coming back and we’re winning

some close games.”

Although Tampa Bay has won the first two games of this series by

one run, its lone loss in seven games was a 2-1 defeat in Minnesota

on Friday. Price (11-4, 2.42 ERA) threw a four-hitter with four

walks, but had a one-hitter going with two outs in the seventh

before the Twins put together three straight hits to score both

runs.

Price, the AL leader in victories and second in ERA, was

selected to his first All-Star Game on Sunday. Considering how well

he’s pitched, the 24-year-old could be chosen as the AL

starter.

“Only two people get to start this game each year, so that would

be a great honor,” Price told the Rays’ official website.

Although this is Tampa Bay’s fourth series against the Red Sox,

this will be Price’s first start against them this season. The

left-hander went 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts against Boston

in 2009 – both at Tropicana Field. He is 5-1 with a 1.99 ERA in

seven home starts this year.

Price has struggled against Kevin Youkilis, and the Boston first

baseman hasn’t ruled out playing in the series finale after leaving

Tuesday because of pain in his right ankle.

Youkilis irritated the ankle capsule while in the field, which

caused it to lock up and give the feeling of a cramp as he stepped

to the plate in the fourth inning. X-rays were negative on

Youkilis, who is one of five candidates to fill the final roster

spot for the AL All-Star team via Internet voting.

“I’ll be good to go,” he said. “It may have been the turf and

all that, I don’t know. It was very strange.”

Youkilis, who has two homers and five RBIs in his last four

games, is 4 for 6 with two doubles lifetime against Price.

The Red Sox, losers of three in a row, counter with Tim

Wakefield (3-6, 4.96), who allowed two runs and seven hits in eight

innings in Friday’s 3-2 win over Baltimore. The knuckleballer has

been pitching much better lately, going 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA in his

last five starts to lower his ERA from 6.02.

Wakefield is 20-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 42 games – 32 starts –

lifetime against Tampa Bay, his most wins against any opponent and

best ERA against any AL team. Despite his overall success against

the Rays, the 18-year veteran is 1-3 with an 8.26 ERA in his last

six starts – all at Tropicana Field.