Boston Red Sox pitcher Martin Perez is looking to make his second time at Tropicana Field this season even more of a charm than the first.
Perez (2-4, 4.40 ERA) will close the season series Sunday afternoon for Boston when the Red Sox (16-31) try to even the four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays and earn a split in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Last-place Boston has lost seven of nine against the first-place Rays (30-16), including Saturday’s 5-4 defeat after battling back from a 4-2 deficit.
Christian Arroyo’s two-run homer in the top of the seventh tied it for Boston — which stole an MLB-high six bases in the contest — but the Rays’ Brandon Lowe won it with a solo homer with two outs in the bottom of the frame.
Perez’s first outing on Florida’s Gulf Coast was outstanding on Aug. 5 for the Red Sox, who had lost four straight after being beaten by Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton in the first meeting in a two-game series.
The lefty scattered four hits over five scoreless innings in recording his second victory in a 5-0 decision — the only time the Rays have been blanked this season. He is 1-5 with a 5.81 ERA in 12 outings (10 starts) against them.
Regarding Boston’s rotation, manager Ron Roenicke said staff ace Chris Sale, who had Tommy John surgery in late March, has taken the next step in his rehab.
“He’s started to play catch, and the catch has gone really well,” said Roenicke of the seven-time All Star. “So, it’s been about a week now since he started to throw, and everything is going really well.”
Tampa Bay had slumped offensively until Friday’s breakout 11-1 win, but Lowe has worn out Red Sox pitching in the 21 games he has faced Boston hurlers with eight homers and 19 RBIs.
The other Lowe on the roster — Nate — outslugged his similarly named teammate in Friday big triumph that saw the offense finally take off with 12 hits — six for extra bases — and its most runs since a 12-7 win against the Miami Marlins on Aug. 30.
While Brandon Lowe had a two-hit night and blazed the basepaths with two swiped bags, Nate Lowe popped a pair of homers in a four-RBI night that was the breakout he personally needed after hitting just .071 (1-for-14) in his first six games since joining the club on Sept. 2.
Nate Lowe said he was happy to get a start and contribute to snapping the streak.
“We’ve got so many guys who sit on the bench and (come in) and play a couple of innings. We like matching up with guys,” said Nate Lowe after manager Kevin Cash set an MLB record by starting nine true left-handed batters in the lianeup. “There are so many guys that are always ready on the pine to contribute.”
By keeping his pitch-count down to 57 in Washington on Monday, Morton (1-2, 4.94) pitched an extra inning in his second start since returning from the injured list. Morton allowed three runs on four hits and was outdueled by Nationals ace Max Scherzer in the 6-1 loss.
On Sunday the 36-year-old right-hander will make his 11th career start against Boston. He is 6-1 with a 3.83 ERA against the Red Sox, and his only win this year was a 5-1 home victory on Aug. 4 when he allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings.
–Field Level Media