Four reasons it's important to win the series with the Rays

The Red Sox could use another strong start
from John Lackey in Game 1 vs. the Rays.
Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

After a brief trip to Canada, the Boston Red Sox return home for an eight-game home stand to complete a stretch of 15-of-18 at Fenway Park. Things haven't gone smoothly at home. In the first seven games of this stretch, the Sox went 3-4 against Baltimore and New York. Overall, Boston has a 5-8 record at the Fens and is above .500 (7-6) on the road.

Let's get to the nitty gritty of why it's important the Sox start with a series win against the Rays.

1) Pitching matchups - The Red Sox have Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in the rotation going. That's John Lackey (3-2, 4.22 ERA), Felix Doubront (1-3, 6.00 ERA) and Jake Peavy (1-0, 2.87 ERA). The Rays send Erik Bedard (0-1, 7.45 ERA), Chris Archer (2-1, 4.11 ERA) and Cesar Ramos (1-1, 3.38 ERA). It's not exactly David Price, Matt Moore (season-ending injury) and Alex Cobb out there. Advantage = Red Sox.

2) Full strength - Now that the lineup is filled out with regulars and the ones returning from injuries have a few games under their belts, it's time for this team to flip a switch. We saw what the Red Sox can do with a fully healthy roster - that being win a World Championship. Let's see if they have what it takes to repeat.

3) Re-establish East dominance - This will be the first series with Tampa Bay this year. The Sox already lead the O's (4-3) and Jays (2-1) in their respective season series. However, the Yanks own a 5-2 edge, making Boston's AL East record 8-9. Thus, it's imperative that Boston get the early upper hand on the Rays. With 19 games against each foe, winning the season series generally places a team ahead of the rest. Since the Sox are already behind in the division, the climb to the top goes through those teams.

4) Speaking of standings... - The Red Sox are currently in fourth. Falling to the Rays, who are in fifth, would mean falling into the bottom of the division again. Winning this series and possibly sweeping it could propel Boston into at least the middle of the pack. Going back to the full strength point, some momentum for this team would also be nice, as they have yet to win three games in a row this season.

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