Two the top teams in the American League Eastern Division square off tonight in Tampa Bay as the Rays host the first-place Red Sox who have a nine-game winning streak. Game time is 7:10 PM ET at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

The Red Sox send knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (3-1, 4.84) to the mound as he looks to beat Tampa Bay for the 22nd time in his career. James Shields (5-4, 2.85) will go for Tampa which is 9-4 with Shields on the mound this year.

Tama Bay (35-31) took the first two games of the season series on April 12 and 13 winning 3-2 and 16-5. Those victories came when Boston was going through a 2-10 slump to start the year. Now the Red Sox have the longest winning streak in baseball this year.

The Rays wrapped up their 6-5 road trip with a 2-1 10-inning loss in Detroit. Johnny Damon had two hits and has now reached base in 38 straight games.

Boston (39-26) is coming off back-to-back sweeps of the Blue Jays and Yankees (who will try to improve their current home record against the Rangers tonight) and has won 14 of its last 16 on the road. The Red Sox have been as consistent as gets posting a 19-3 record at Fenway Park and 20-13 away from the Green Monster.

The books opened the baseball betting with the Rays as a -110 moneyline favorite, this has since moved to -131 with the total dropping from 9 to 8.5.

Booming Bats

The Red Sox were getting beat up on a regular basis in the season but they’ve bounced back and are doing the bullying now. Boston is first in baseball in batting (.276) and leads the majors in runs per game (5.38). They’re tops in runs scored (350) and second in home runs (77). During their nine-game winning streak they’ve scored 83 runs.

David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez have caught fire and are two of the biggest reason for the Red Sox resurgence. Ortiz is hitting a team leading 17 homeruns with 43 RBI’s and a .325 average. Gonzalez, who joined Boston in a trade with San Diego, is feasting an American League pitching. Gonzo is hitting an AL best .341 with 13 homers and has an MLB high 63 runs batted in. Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is at.318 with seven round-trippers and 33 runs batted. The explosive Red Sox have two solid veterans in the lineup in Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis who have combined for 70 RBI’s. Since April 16, the Red Sox are 37-16 and the offense is coming off a record setting weekend in Toronto where they outscored the Jays 30-5.

Tim Wakefield Pitching Boston Red SoxHomecoming for Crawford

All eyes will be focused on Carl Crawford who will make his first series at Tropicana Field since bolting for Boston and a massive seven-year $142 million dollar deal, Crawford has been slow out of the gate, hitting .246 with six homers, four triples, 11 doubles and eight homeruns.

The Boston pitching staff has largely been a three-man show. Josh Beckett (5-2, 2.06 ERA), Clay Buchholz (5-3, 3.59) and Jon Lester (9-2, 3.73) have been Red Sox most reliable starters. John Lackey (4-5, 7.41) now in his second season in Boston has been a bust so far as has Dice K Matsuzaka is out for the season with an elbow injury. He’ll undergo Tommy John surgery and has likely thrown his final pitch for the Red Sox. Since replacing Dice K in the rotation, Wakefield is 3-0.

Show the man some love

James Shields is one those pitchers who has struggled with run support getting a league low 1.19 per game. He’s pitched well enough to have nine or 10 victories but the Rays lineup has failed to produce in many of his starts. With Evan Longoria in and out of the lineup with injuries, Matt Joyce has stepped up and is hitting a team high .330 with 10 home runs.

There’s a 30 percent chance of rain in the forecast for this matchup, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 50’s. Light winds of 11 miles per hour are expected.

Harvey’s take: The Red Sox are rolling and all the break seem to be coming their way. I’m making a small play on Wakefield and slightly larger play on the ‘over’.

Good luck!