Game 102: Rays at Red Sox - First place on the line

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

It was somewhat expected that the Boston Red Sox may have a sluggish game Monday following Sunday night/Monday morning’s extra-inning game with the Yankees. But to be held to two hits by Matt Moore was a little surprising.

Because of that, the Tampa Bay Rays (59-41) are now a half-game out of first place in the AL East with the chance to take over the top spot with a win tonight. Once again, the two best teams in the American League do battle at Fenway Park in Game 2 of this series between the Sox and Rays. Boston (60-41) is the only team in baseball with 60 wins and has Jon Lester going on the hill. Lester was originally scheduled to start Sunday night, but was pushed back to today for the purpose of giving him a little more rest, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell. Lester mixed bag in the first part of the year, starting 6-0, but faltering over his final 11 starts before the All-Star Break, going 2-6 and raising his overall ERA from 2.72 to 4.58. He aims to get the final two months of the season started with a win against the Rays, whom he is 11-9 with 4.36 ERA against in 25 career starts, and cushion the Sox lead back to 1.5 games.

Here is the Red Sox lineup tonight (first pitch – 7:10 pm EDT):

1. Victorino, CF
2. Nava, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Ortiz, DH
5. Napoli, 1B
6. Carp, LF
7. Saltalamacchia, C
8. Drew, SS
9. Iglesias, 3B

Lester, P

Roberto Hernandez starts on the mound for Tampa Bay. He is 5-10 with a 4.90 ERA and is allowing 9.7 runs per nine innings this season. However, Hernandez went 7.0 innings and allowed three runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts in an 8-3 win against Boston on June 11.

Sox, Pedroia agree on deal
The biggest – and perhaps best – news to come out of Boston today was that the Red Sox and star second baseman Dustin Pedroia have agreed to a contract extension. The deal has not been made official. Pedroia has another year remaining on his current contract, which pays him $10 million in 2014, with a club option for $11 million in 2015. However, the two sides have reportedly agreed to make 2015 the first year of his new contract, which will be seven years, $100 million. The contract runs through the 2021 season, which is when Pedroia will turn 38 years old, and pays him an average annual value of $14.3 million. This is a big announcement for both sides because Pedroia can now focus all his attention to baseball and his family while the Red Sox have locked up one of the best players in the game pretty much to the end of his career.

Ellsbury takes day off
As the grind of the season wears on, Farrell has mentioned he’d like to give his players some rest, particularly with the end of the season upcoming and the Sox in a pennant race. He wants all his stars to be healthy down the stretch, so it’s no surprise that players like Mike Napoli and Jacoby Ellsbury have been out of the lineup recently. Napoli missed Saturday’s game with the Yankees and Ellsbury is out tonight, with Shane Victorino moving to center field batting leadoff, Mike Carp playing left and Daniel Nava in right.

Let us know what you think about tonight’s game by commenting below.

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