The Red Sox were surely happy to get home Thursday after a disappointing road trip ended with a thud in Minneapolis. But there is precious little time to lick the wounds from an error-filled 8-0 loss to the Twins.
Waiting to greet the Red Sox at Fenway on Friday to start a four-game series are the Tampa Bay Rays. And while the Yankees, quite understandably, remain the biggest threat in the American League East, it is the Rays who could ultimately decide whether the Red Sox make the postseason for an unprecedented fourth straight year.
At best, only two teams from the AL East will qualify for the playoffs, and the Rays, coming off a step-back season in 2009, appear ready to challenge for the pennant once more. After sweeping a three-game series from the hapless Orioles in Baltimore, the Rays arrive in Boston with a 6-3 record, the best nine-game start in the franchise’s short history.
“It means a lot,” said first baseman Carlos Pena, who leads the team with three homers and 10 RBIs.
“That’s exactly what we wanted to do.”
What the Rays want to do over the course of the long weekend is run the Red Sox ragged. Already, Boston has allowed a league-leading 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts, a weakness the speedy Rays — led by Carl Crawford — will look to exploit.
All the Rays’ running will put extra pressure on the Red Sox defense, which unzipped Thursday in Minnesota with three errors, one more than it committed over the first eight games of the season.
“Not a very good day,” manager Terry Francona said. “We gave them some extra opportunities, some extra chances, and that was a tough way to play the game today.”