Sox Rout Rays Again

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The Red Sox' three straight wins over the Devil Rays at Fenway Apr. 29-30 marked the end of the Sox' lone dominant stretch of the season. Now, more than three months later, the Rays are back in Boston and the Sox are hoping they're the tonic necessary to start another hot streak.<br>

The Sox, in the midst a pressure-packed homestand, throttled the Devil Rays for the second night in a row Wednesday, 14-4. The Sox batted around in the second and third innings and recorded more runs against Tampa starter Dewon Brazelton (eight) than outs (five) before they put the game away with five more runs in the third off reliever Jeremi Gonzalez.

Once again, Derek Lowe was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst. Lowe, who allowed three runs, nine hits and a walk before he departed due to his chronic thumb blister after 5.1 innings, is now 10-10 despite a 5.47 ERA, which is the eighth-worst mark among pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA crown.

But in a long-running storyline, Lowe continues to profit from the Sox' prolific bats. He ranks third in the bigs in run support at 7.27 runs per game—almost the exact same average as a year ago, when he led the majors at 7.26 runs per game. During his 20-win season in 2002, Lowe ranked second in the bigs at 6.84 runs per game.

The Sox will go for the series win this afternoon, when Pedro Martinez takes on Mark Hendrickson. With the reeling White Sox and the long-buried Blue Jays next up on this three-team, 10-game homestand, a victory today could go a long way towards jump-starting a Red Sox club which has been stuck in neutral for more than three months.

The Sox were 15-6 after sweeping the Devil Rays Apr. 28-29, but they're just 47-44 since then. Unbelievably, they've barely been better than the Devil Rays, who are 47-47 since Apr. 29.

However, both teams could be reverting back to April form. While the Sox hope to fatten up on the league's also-rans, the Devil Rays continue to stumble following the hottest stretch in team history. The Devil Rays won 12 in a row from June 9-22 and 19 of 23 between June 9 and July 3 to move over .500 and surge into the AL wild card race, but they're just 14-22 since then.

A return to April can't happen soon enough for the Sox, who are engaged in a fierce battle for the AL wild card with the Angels, Rangers and surprising Indians. Through Wednesday, the Sox and Angels were in a virtual tie for the wild card lead—the Sox (62-50) actually had a .001 lead over the Angels (63-51). The Rangers (61-51) are a game back while the Indians (60-55) are 3.5 games behind the Sox and Angels.

The Sox have completed the season series against the Indians but will host the Rangers and Angels in back-to-back three-game series Aug. 31-Sept. 5.

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