ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — So which team would the Red Sox like to play once they enter the playoffs?
While nobody would say anything publicly, players did indicate they thought they had played their best against the Rays, against whom they are now 12-6 this season.
Red Sox-Rays has been a strange season series statistically.
Entering Wednesday night’s game, the Sox had hit the Rays at a .207 clip, but they had a .280 average with runners in scoring position. Tampa Bay was hitting Boston pitching at a .237 clip, but was .146 with runners in scoring position.
The .207 average stood as the third-lowest vs. an opponent in Red Sox history. They hit .189 against the 2011 Rays and .204 against the 1966 Orioles.
The Sox are batting .285 and averaging 5.4 runs per game against everyone else this season.
Part of Boston’s confidence despite the strange numbers against the Rays is that Tampa has lost six games in the ninth inning or later, including three walkoffs at Fenway.
The Red Sox have no reason to fear anyone, but there’s a feeling that the Yankees are unpredictable, and the Sox realized based on their weekend series in New York that despite taking three out of four, the Yankees are capable of scoring runs in a hurry, which makes them dangerous.
Dangerous is also a word Red Sox players use to describe the Orioles, who are in the thick of the wild-card chase. The Red Sox’ dream matchup would be against Cleveland, a team they handled easily earlier this season when the Indians were struggling.
The Red Sox are 32-30 against playoff contenders other than Tampa Bay. They are 6-7 vs. the Orioles, 6-1 vs. Cleveland, 3-4 vs. Detroit, 2-5 vs. Kansas City, 10-6 vs. the Yankees, 3-3 vs. Oakland, and 2-4 vs. Texas.
“We just need to win games,” said Sox manager John Farrell, who was uncomfortable about any questioning concerning the postseason.
Clay Buchholz came out of Tuesday night’s five shutout innings against Tampa Bay just fine. And he’s now on the verge of getting into a normal pitching routine. He’s now set to go Sunday vs. the Yankees at Fenway Park. “He came out of it as he has the last three rehab starts — nothing abnormal even with increased intensity,” said Farrell. “He came out of it in good shape. He’ll go Sunday night at home. I’m sure he’ll increase his time on the mound with an incremental bump up of pitches in order.” Buchholz threw 74 pitches Tuesday night and should get up around 90 Sunday. After that, there should be no restrictions if all goes well . . . Farrell said that despite Felix Doubront being skipped in the rotation, he will get another start before the year is out. Farrell hasn’t forgotten Doubront's contribution for most of the season. “He was very good,” Farrell said. “For a consistent stretch of 15 consecutive starts where he allowed three runs or less when Clay went down, he stepped up, as did John Lackey, after he got over early season inconsistencies with arm strength and reeled off two months of reliability.” . . . Farrell said rookie righty Allen Webster will get chances out of the bullpen. The Red Sox are curious to see how his 97-mile-per-hour fastball works out of the pen.
Koji Uehara has retired the last 34 batters he’s faced, the longest stretch in club history, previously held by Ellis Kinder (32 batters). In Wednesday’s 7-3 win, Uehera extended his scoreless streak to 29⅓ innings, the longest by a Sox reliever since Dick Radatz (33 innings in 1963) . . . David Ortiz was issued his major league-leading 23d intentional walk . . . Mike Napoli is batting .444 with 11 RBIs in nine games this month . . . Ryan Dempster has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 13 of his last 18 starts . . . The Red Sox have won their last seven series . . . The last time the Sox were 31 games over .500 was Aug. 31, 2011 . . . The Sox are now 10-5 in extra innings . . . Farrell was hesitant to elaborate on the fact that the Sox are closing in on 90 wins, though after winning 73 games in Toronto last season, it had to feel good. “One thing we didn’t do is set a number or goal of a number of wins,” he said. “The reality, I think, is a number can almost limit you. Hopefully we don’t stop there.” . . . Don’t expect Jarrod Saltalamacchia to catch every day between now and the end of the season. The Sox are going to be careful about his back, which has been balky, with Saltalamacchia experiencing inflammation that just recently began to subside. There’s no structural damage, so Farrell is content “spreading out the workload as best as possible until he’s completely out of the woods.” . . . While Farrell thinks Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts are ready to be every-day players, he warned that the composition of the roster next season could determine whether both will indeed start. “Do I think they can be every-day players? Yes, I do,” Farrell said. But the discussion will be whether the Red Sox are best served having two rookies start up the middle . . . Andrew Bailey is still in the “range of motion” phase of his recovery from shoulder surgery (torn labrum). He said he should be able to start throwing by December. The timetable is 12 months, so he’s looking at a return in July. “It’s been a long haul,” Bailey said. “I’ve had a lot of things go wrong, but I’m still here fighting through it and hopefully given all of the things I’ve had go wrong, I’m ready to have some good health. I’m finally past the pain phase in this and my range of motion is good, and soon the next step will be some strength training. From there I’ll start throwing.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.