Anytime you mention the name “Bobby Valentine” in a sentence, it makes Red Sox fans’ blood pressure raise a little bit, but that’s exactly the situation the Sox face tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays: a loss will extend their losing streak to eight games, tying the mark set at the end of the 2012 season when Bobby V was still at the helm in Boston.
After Jon Lester failed to stop the bleeding in Boston against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox last resort of ending the losing trend is John Lackey, who outside of a bad start last week against the Tigers has been one of the Red Sox’ most consistent starter this season.
Coming into Friday’s game, Lackey is 5-3 with a 4.01 ERA in nine starts in 2014 with 56 strikeouts and 13 walks. After going 3-0 in four starts, he struggled against the potent Detroit offense last Saturday, giving up six runs – five of them earned – in 5.1 innings on nine hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Having pitched in the AL East since 2010, most of the Rays regulars have a good amount of experience against Lackey, with Evan Longoria, David DeJesus, Yunel Escobar, Matt Joyce, and James Loney having faced him more than 20 times. Escobar has hit him well (.476 BA in 21 AB), while Joyce (.318 in 22 AB), Loney (.318 in 22 AB), and Longoria (.306 in 36 AB) all have career averages over .300 against him. DeJesus is the only one with a sub-.300 BA against Lackey, hitting .222 in 27 career at bats.
On the hill for the Rays will be Chris Archer, who has had struggles of his own in his third major league season. He is currently 3-2 in nine starts in 2014 with an ERA of 4.59, although he is coming off of a strong start in Anaheim, where he went 5.2 innings and allowed no runs on two hits with five walks and five strikeouts.
Five of the Red Sox in tonight’s lineup have hits in their career off of Archer, with David Ortiz and Shane Victorino tallying three each in nine and seven at bats, respectively. Dustin Pedroia has faced Archer 13 times, but has only one hit, while Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski each have a hit in eight and five at bats, respectively.