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Red Sox Turn to Beckett Thursday Against Rays At Tropicana Field

The Boston Red Sox bullpen has been heavily taxed in recent games, pitching 23 2/3 innings in their last six games. But with Josh Beckett on the mound Thursday, they can be confident most of them will get some rest.

Beckett (2-1) will oppose Matt Garza (1-2) and the Tampa Bay Rays in the first of a four-game series at Tropicana Field. The Rays took the first three games of the season series, one in which both Beckett and Garza pitched well.

Garza stymied the Red Sox at Fenway on Apr. 9, allowing just one earned run while striking out five in seven innings for his first and only win of the 2009 season. Beckett was even more dominant in his opening day start, allowing one run on just two hits while striking out ten in seven innings of his own.

Despite the strong start to his season, Beckett was not nearly as effective last time out against the Yankees. He got pounded for eight runs in five-plus innings while throwing 116 pitches. Garza also struggled in his last start, allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings while walking four.

With the Red Sox- who have won 12 of their last 13 including an 11-game winning streak- coming to town, Tampa Bay may have a sense of urgency in tonight’s game. The Rays have stumbled to an 8-14 start and have been below-average all-around. They currently sit 10th in the American League in runs scored with 97, eighth in ERA with 4.70, and eighth in team fielding pct. with .983.

The Rays are coming off an 8-3 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Twins in which Scott Kazmir was roughed up for eight runs- six earned- in just four innings of work. Center fielder B.J. Upton is only 9-for-57 (.158) with one RBI in 15 games since his return from the disabled list. He and other Rays hitters will need to step it up to keep up with a Red Sox lineup that has scored 60 runs in their last 8 games.

The Rays will have to get a strong performance out of Garza, who was 1-0 against the Red Sox in three starts at Tampa, allowing 6 runs in 16 2/3 innings, in 2008. Beckett will also need to be much sharper and more efficient than he was against the Yankees. Red Sox Nation would certainly like to see something similar to Beckett’s two starts at Tropicana Field in 2008 (15 IP, 2 ER, 22 K).

The way the pitchers’ seasons are going so far, this game is tough to predict. But what can be guaranteed is that both teams will be ready for battle when the clock strikes 7:08 p.m.

April 30, 2009 - Posted by | baseball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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