BOSTON -- Entering a showdown for first place with the Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays came in with the majors' hottest rotation.
They left town after Thursday's rainout still a half-game behind AL East-leading Boston, but had a pair of left-handers -- David Price and Matt Moore -- perform something that hadn't been done by two lefties in Fenway Park in nearly 40 years.Price and Moore each pitched complete-game victories as the red-hot Rays took two of three from the Red Sox."I actually have had a chance to reflect on that," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said, sitting in his office about 90 minutes before the scheduled starting time. "There's something in (the press notes) about complete games for lefties in Fenway against the Sox."The past two visiting left-handers to post complete-game wins over the Red Sox were Oakland's Vida Blue and Darold Knowles in 1973.Now, the Red Sox may have to face one of them again when the teams get together for Monday's makeup game at 6:10 p.m.The Rays listed Roberto Hernandez or Price for their matchup next week.Price was outstanding in a 5-1 win on Wednesday, holding Boston to five hits, striking out four and not walking a batter en route to his third complete game in four starts.Since returning from a 47-day stint on the disabled list because of a triceps strain, he is 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts.The 27-year old left-hander overpowered Boston's hitters to lower his career ERA to 1.96 in Fenway, the lowest mark among active pitchers with at least 20 innings there.The Rays head to New York for a three-game series against the Yankees, having won 19 of their past 22 games. Jeremy Hellickson (9-3, 4.62 ERA) is scheduled to face CC Sabathia (9-8, 4.37 ERA) on Friday. Chris Archer faces New York's Ivan Nova on Saturday and Moore goes against Phil Hughes on Sunday.Tampa Bay's starters have a majors' best 2.21 ERA in their past 27 games, which started after they fell into the AL East's basement on June 23.The Red Sox, who dropped a home series because of the shortened set with Tampa Bay after going 8-0-1, play the Orioles in Baltimore on Friday night.John Lackey (7-7, 2.95 ERA) was scheduled to start Thursday, but he'll open the three-game series on Friday against Chris Tillman (12-3, 3.84).Boston's scheduled starter for Saturday, Brandon Workman, was pushed back to next Tuesday. Ryan Dempster was moved from Friday to Saturday, Jon Lester remains on turn for Sunday and Felix Doubront is slated to pitch Monday's makeup."Keeping four of the five guys on their normal turn, despite John and Ryan getting an extra day, and just felt like Lester and Doubront in those slots, I felt like it was right," Boston manager John Farrell said.Dempster said he found out as soon as Thursday's game was called."I just found out after they told us we'd be playing on Monday," he said. "It all ends up working out."The Rays had a chance to overtake the Red Sox for first, and now it'll have to wait."It would be nice to leave town that way," Maddon said before the game was called. "These games have been very good, very interesting to watch for a fan and from the dugout. Obviously our pitching has been outstanding, we've gotten enough hits and the defense has been there."
Boston has been alone atop the AL East since May 27. ... After the makeup, the Rays fly home and open a five-game homestand. ... Following Monday's game against Tampa Bay, Boston hosts Seattle and Arizona each for three games.
From Elias: The Dodgers and Rays have the best records in baseball respectively since June 22, and coincidentally their opponents have been among the weakest in baseball.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rays have had the easiest schedule in that span, while the Dodgers are not too far behind at 4th.