The Boston Red Sox's chances of catching the New York Yankees in the American League East could hinge on the games ahead as they approach the MLB All-Star break.
The Red Sox begin a 14-game stretch against only American League East Division rivals Tampa Bay and New York with the first of a three-game series against the visiting Rays on Monday afternoon.
Tampa Bay enters play Monday sitting a game behind the Red Sox for first place in the wild-card standings. New York leads the division by 13 1/2 games.
"It's not like we haven't been there before," Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. "It's just a matter of winning one game at a time."
The two teams have played just three times thus far in 2022, splitting a pair of one-run games before the Rays earned the series victory on April 24.
Michael Wacha (6-1, 2.69 ERA) is scheduled to start for Boston after allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings in a loss to the Blue Jays last Tuesday. He took a no-decision.
However, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said following Sunday's extra-innings win over the Chicago Cubs that Wacha was not feeling great and Kutter Crawford (1-2, 6.41) could start in his place.
"We'll see," Cora said. "(Wacha has) a heavy arm, kind of like tired."
Wacha had given up just three earned runs over his previous two outings, which were wins against Detroit and St. Louis. Boston is 9-4 in Wacha's outings this season, including 8-2 when he allows two or fewer runs.
Crawford, who was a late scratch from his outing with Triple-A Worcester, has made two starts this season in the majors.
Boston avoided what would have been just its second sweep of the season Sunday, but Bogaerts left the game to receive seven stitches after being cleated by Willson Contreras in the thigh in the seventh inning.
Tampa Bay has scored 24 runs on 41 hits in winning its past three games, including Sunday's 7-3 win that included a six-run fifth inning.
"We should be feeling pretty good right now," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "The bats have kind of come to life. Want to see that continue as much as possible."
Ji-Man Choi had three hits and Randy Arozarena drove in two on the team's third homer of the Sunday win. Choi and Harold Ramirez also hit homers.
"The production has been great," Arozarena said. "Everyone's been producing one way or another (and) everyone's been getting good results. ... Hopefully we can continue going in Boston."
Rays lefty Jeffrey Springs (3-2, 2.25) is expected to return to the mound after missing his scheduled Thursday start due to a family medical emergency. Tampa Bay has won each of his past five starts.
Springs has made the past nine of his 10 starts consecutively after beginning the season in a relief role. He has worked six innings on three occasions in that span, striking out a season-high nine batters during a June 24 start against Pittsburgh.
Cristofer Ogando threw two innings and gave up one run in Sunday's win, making his major league debut at 28. He began his career in 2013 then spent nearly five years out of professional baseball.
--Field Level Media