Having snapped a 13-game losing streak at the dome with a 7-3 win in the series opener, Boston will try to clinch the three-game set Tuesday night in its second matchup with the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Desperately needing a victory, Boston (72-66) got a career-high four-RBI game from Triston Casas and a strong start from Brayan Bello to win for the third consecutive outing and first time in the bayside ballpark since April 22, 2022.
"I think he's going to keep hitting fourth in this lineup," Boston manager Alex Cora said after Casas produced a two-hit game that included a 419-foot homer — his 23rd — to put Boston up for good in the sixth inning.
The Rays (83-55) started fast with three runs on three hits in the first inning, but they managed only two more hits over the next eight frames.
Regular Tampa Bay starters Yandy Diaz, Isaac Paredes and Jose Siri were given the day off, but manager Kevin Cash gave credit to Bello for shutting down his squad. The Red Sox right-hander gave up three runs and struck out seven in six innings.
"We had good at-bats early on, but I felt like Bello settled in," said Cash, whose club is 7-2 against the Red Sox this year. "He threw a good ballgame. He had a lot of late movement between the sinker and changeup going in one direction and the big sweeping slider going in the other direction. He made it tough for us."
The pitching matchup Tuesday night will feature a pair of native Floridians, Boston's Kutter Crawford and Tampa Bay's Zach Eflin.
A product of the lakeside town of Okeechobee, Crawford (6-7, 4.08 ERA) will appear in his 27th game and make his 19th start of the year.
The right-hander surrendered six runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings and absorbed a 7-4 loss to the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
Before the start, Cora said Crawford had progressed tremendously from 2022 (3-6, 5.47 in 21 games).
"Since day one, he's been one of our best pitchers," the manager said. "Whenever he pitches, he gives us a chance to win. He's grown so much from last year."
Crawford is 1-0 with a 2.21 ERA in five appearances (two starts) against the Rays, 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two games (one start) this year.
Eflin (13-8, 3.40 ERA) went 2-2 in August with his best monthly ERA this season — 2.62 — but had tough no-decisions against the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins.
In those two starts, the Orlando native allowed a total of one run and nine hits in 13 1/3 innings — a 0.68 ERA.
Tied for the AL lead in victories (13) with Toronto's Chris Bassitt and Baltimore's Kyle Gibson, Eflin also has two no-decisions in his pair of career starts against Boston to go along with a 7.00 ERA over nine innings. Both of those outings occurred in 2020.
—Field Level Media