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Red Sox, Rays play two at Fenway

Aug 16, 2011 - 2:43 PM (Sports Network) - The Boston Red Sox are back in Beantown and will play a day-night doubleheader Tuesday versus the AL East-rival Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.

Boston has lost two straight and three of four games since a four-game winning streak, and is even with the despised New York Yankees atop the division standings. The Red Sox dropped two of three in Seattle over the weekend and suffered a 5-3 loss on Sunday, as Tim Wakefield remained stuck on career win No. 199, allowing five runs -- four earned -- in eight innings.

"I felt great. Obviously the results weren't what I wanted them to be, but I was able to go eight," said Wakefield. "They made some great defensive plays on our offense today. We squared up a lot of balls that were hit right at guys, but other than that [Charlie] Furbush pitched pretty good."

Kevin Youkilis returned from a two-game absence because of a sore back and clubbed a two-run homer, while Jed Lowrie knocked in a run for the Red Sox, who went 3-3 on a six-game trek against the Twins and Mariners.

Jon Lester will lead the Red Sox into the opener of today's twinbill and has lost back-to-back starts. In last Wednesday's 5-2 loss at Minnesota, Lester was reached for four runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 frames to fall to 11-6 in 22 starts this season with a 3.32 ERA. He is now 2-4 in his past six decisions.

Lester, a left-hander, lost to Tampa Bay on April 12 this season, when he allowed all three runs in a 3-2 loss in seven innings of work. He is 9-4 with a 3.81 ERA in 17 career starts against the Rays.

Drawing the assignment for Boston in the nightcap will be Erik Bedard. The veteran southpaw will make his third start with the Red Sox since coming over from Seattle and is 0-3 in his previous five starts. Bedard hasn't recorded a decision with his new club and was last in action during a 4-3 victory in the Twin Cities last Tuesday, tossing five innings of two-run ball.

Bedard is 4-7 with a 3.55 ERA in 18 starts with both Seattle and Boston this season, and will be out for a measure of revenge against a Tampa Bay squad that beat him on July 29 this season. In that 8-0 win by the Rays, Bedard was reached for five runs in just 1 1/3 innings. He is still 11-4 with a 3.41 ERA in 22 career games (21 starts) against the Rays.

Tampa Bay was hoping to get back into the win column on Sunday in the Bronx, but its finale of a three-game series against the New York Yankees was postponed because of inclement weather.

The Rays had a five-game winning streak halted with Saturday's 9-2 loss at Yankee Stadium, as Jeremy Hellickson absorbed the loss for giving up four runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 frames. Brandon Gomes and Cesar Ramos combined to allow five runs in relief.

"It was the wrong team to not have your fastball command with you today," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of his starter.

Desmond Jennings homered and Ben Zobrist provided the other run for Tampa Bay, which had won eight of 10 games prior to the loss.

James Shields will attempt to pitch the Rays back into the win column this afternoon and is 11-9 with a 2.80 earned run average in 24 starts. He has won two straight and three of four trips to the hill, including a 4-0 win over Kansas City last Tuesday. He allowed six hits, struck out eight and walked three for his fourth shutout and eighth complete game of 2011.

"I didn't think I was going to get one complete game," Shields said. "I hadn't had one since 2008, so I was just hoping for one this year. Fortunately, for me, it's been a lot. I'm really, really happy with the way I've pitched this year and hopefully we can get a couple more here."

Shields lost to Boston in a 9-5 decision on July 16 this season and was reached for six runs and six hits in six innings. In 18 career starts against the Red Sox, the right-hander is 6-10 with a 4.95 ERA.

The Rays will hand Jeff Niemann the ball in the second contest and he has won three straight starts and six consecutive decisions. He last took the hill in Thursday's 4-1 win over the Royals and gave up only one run on nine hits and two walks through 6 1/3 innings to improve to 7-4 in 15 starts to go along with a 3.43 earned run average.

Niemann did not record a decision against the Red Sox in a 1-0 loss on July 17, when he threw eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball and struck out 10 batters. The righty is 2-2 with a 4.56 ERA in five career starts in this series and 4-1 in seven starts as the guest this season.

Boston and Tampa Bay have split eight matchups this season.






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