Welcome back, Clay Buchholz.
The Red Sox starting pitcher hasn’t pitched for the big league club since June 8, but makes his long-awaited return tonight when Boston takes on the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Buchholz was arguably the best pitcher in baseball prior to an injury that has kept him out for more than three months. He was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 12 starts. Buchholz will be limited to 75-80 pitches tonight, so look for the bullpen to get some work.
The Rays (78-64) are 7.5 games behind Boston (87-58) with a chance to close the gap or widen it with this three-game series. It’s the final meeting of the regular season between the two AL East foes. The Red Sox hold a 10-6 advantage and have already won the season series. With 17 games to go, though, the Sox Magic Number is 12 and Boston could really put the Rays in a hole in the East and Wild Card standings by taking this series.
Here is the Red Sox lineup tonight (first pitch – 7:10 pm EDT):
1. Pedroia, 2B
2. Victorino, CF
3. Ortiz, DH
4. Napoli, 1B
5. Gomes, LF
6. Nava, RF
7. Saltalamacchia, C
8. Middlebrooks, 3B
9. Drew, SS
David Price, who has dominated Boston, particularly this season, is on the mound for the Rays. He is 8-7 with a 3.51 ERA and pitched back-to-back games at Fenway Park in July, holding the Sox to two runs over 16.1 innings, picking up two wins along the way.
Pedey leads off, other lineup notes
Dustin Pedroia has hardly been used as a leadoff man in his career – just 76 starts at the top spot. He is slotted there tonight for No. 77, his first time there since Oct. 3, 2009. He is batting .253 with five home runs and 27 RBI as a leadoff man…David Ortiz is moved up to the No. 3 hole with Mike Napoli batting clean-up. In his last four starts, Napoli is hitting 9-for-17 with four homers, nine RBI and seven runs…John Farrell chose a right-handed heavy lineup to face lefty Price. Only Ortiz and Stephen Drew bat left-handed, and some are questioning why Drew is in the lineup in favor of Xander Bogaerts.
This and that
The Rays return home after a 13-game West Coast swing in which they went 4-9. Tampa is 23-8 at home in September over the last two seasons…Boston won its 30th series this past weekend in New York. The Red Sox have won their last six series in a row, the first time that’s happened since July 2011. No other team in MLB has more than 27 series wins.
Let us know what you think about tonight’s game by commenting below.
Like what you read? See more from Ben here.
Have a question or comment for Ben? Give him a shout on Twitter: @thebenwhitehead