Game 27: Rays at Red Sox - At full strength, Sox ready to impose will

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

Back before the season start, the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays were expected to be neck and neck in the standings. What was unexpected was that they'd be at the bottom of the barrel.

Both teams head into their first meeting of the season desperate to string together some wins and prove they aren't as bad as their record indicates. Both have seen injuries thwart any hope of a good start to the season.

For the Red Sox, John Lackey will be on the hill. This will be the fifth game in six starts that Lackey has faced an AL East opponent. He's 3-2 overall with a 4.22 ERA, coming off a dominant performance against the Yankees. In that outing, Lackey allowed one run and struck out 11 in eight innings, scattering seven hits with no walks. In his two starts prior, he allowed six earned runs each time and suffered consecutive losses.

Here's the Red Sox (12-14) lineup tonight (first pitch - 7:10 pm ET):

1) Pedroia, 2B
2) Victorino, RF
3) Ortiz, DH
4) Napoli, 1B
5) Gomes, LF
6) Bogaerts, SS
7) Pierzynski, C
8) Middlebrooks, 3B
9) Bradley Jr., CF

Lackey, P

Former Red Sox pitcher Erik Bedard starts for Tampa Bay (11-15). Bedard, who is on his fifth team in the last four years, comes in with an 0-1 record in three appearances (two starts) and a 7.45 ERA.

Home not so kind
One of the major advantages of playing at Fenway Park is the Red Sox having the comfortability of knowing all the nicks and crannies of the obscure ballpark. However, the Sox are just 5-8 at home this year and just .500 (5-5) since an Opening Series sweep by the Brewers. They begin an eight-game stand at the Fens tonight, with an opportunity to restore order.

What's trending?
Boston took two-of-three from the Blue Jays and has won three of its last five overall and is 7-5 in its last 12 games. The Rays are sliding. They began the season 7-5, but have since gone 4-10, including losses in five of their last six games. The Sox have won three of their past six series (and split another). Tampa Bay has only won two series (out of eight) all year.

Napo-leading the way
Of the five major offensive categories, Mike Napoli finds himself sitting at the top of four for the Red Sox. Napoli leads Boston in average (.304), home runs (5), RBI (15) and OBP (.394). Dustin Pedroia leads the hit category with 29; Napoli is second with 28.

10 for X
Xander Bogaerts is riding a 10-game hitting streak. He has two hits in two of the last three games he's played. Bogaerts' average has risen from .260 to .287 during the streak.

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