Rays-Red Sox Preview

After three inconsistent seasons with Seattle, Erasmo Ramirez is making a case to remain part of the Tampa Bay Rays' long-term plans following a breakout season.

The right-hander looks for a third consecutive strong outing as the Rays try to win the season series from the Boston Red Sox for the second straight year Thursday night at Fenway Park.

After making a total of 35 starts for the Mariners from 2012-14, Ramirez (10-6, 3.70 ERA) was traded to Tampa Bay for Mike Montgomery in late March. He's been better than expected since permanently joining the rotation May 14, posting a 3.01 ERA which is the best among all Rays starters - even All-Star Chris Archer.

Ramirez seemingly showed some fatigue during a recent four-start stretch in which he had a 6.20 ERA, but he's bounced back with a pair of impressive efforts. He got within six outs of a no-hitter against the New York Yankees on Sept. 14, then allowed two runs over seven innings in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Baltimore.

"Erasmo was very good again ... even when we took him out, he had a relatively low pitch count (86)," manager Kevin Cash told MLB's official website. "He gets a lot of swings early. I think that's a credit to the way he's pitched throughout the year."

Ramirez is winless in six straight starts, getting just one run of support over the last two. However, neither of those solid performances came on the road, where he's posted a 6.18 ERA over his last five outings.

The 25-year-old has a 5.09 ERA in four career starts versus Boston. The most recent was also his only one at Fenway, giving up four runs - one earned - over six innings July 31.

The Red Sox had averaged 7.4 runs during a 6-1 stretch at home after Monday's 8-7 win in the series opener. However, they've been held to 15 hits and 3 for 18 with runners in scoring position over the last two games, losing 5-2 on Tuesday and 6-2 on Wednesday.

Mookie Betts is 7 for 12 in the series and batting .500 over a 12-game home hitting streak. Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to a career-best 12 with a ninth-inning single Wednesday, but David Ortiz went hitless for a fourth straight game.

"Our offense just couldn't get any momentum," interim manager Torey Lovullo said.

Steven Souza Jr. went 4 for 5 with his 16th home run and Asdrubal Cabrera went 3 for 5 with his 13th homer for the Rays, who tied the season series at nine wins apiece.

Tampa Bay (74-78) also moved 1 1/2 games up on last-place Boston (72-79) in the AL East. The Red Sox haven't ended up in the cellar in consecutive seasons since a six-year span from 1925-30.

Wade Miley (11-10, 4.34) will try to help them salvage a split of this four-game series after going 1-0 with a 2.78 ERA in his first three September starts. He overcame five walks to yield two runs over 6 2-3 innings Saturday when he didn't get a decision in a 7-6 win at Toronto.

Miley has posted a 1.93 ERA in winning his last three starts at Fenway. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA in six career meetings with Tampa Bay, including four this year.

Boston's Pablo Sandoval could miss his fourth straight game with an upper respiratory infection.

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