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Rays-Red Sox preview

BOSTON -- Stunned by an eight-run rally Sunday night that cost them the series finale against the Kansas City Royals, the Boston Red Sox look to Rick Porcello to reverse their fortunes.

Porcello brings a 12-0 home record to the mound in the opener of a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night at Fenway Park.

Porcello will face fellow right-hander Matt Andriese in a rematch of a game last Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Fla. Neither pitcher earned a decision in that game, won 4-3 by the Rays in 11 innings, and Porcello takes his second shot at a major-league-leading 18th win in the rematch.

He will bid to become the first Red Sox pitcher in 70 years to start a season 13-0 at home.

In the first year of a five-year contract extension worth $82.5 million, Porcello (17-3, 3.23 ERA) is a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate.

"I think the one thing was that we weren't sure as time went on if he would take the jump to be a top-of-the-rotation guy once we had him," Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said in a recent WEEI interview. "We looked at him maybe as a middle-of-the-rotation type."

As David Price has lived through his ups and downs in his first year in Boston, and as Steven Wright has emerged as a pleasant surprise, Porcello has flown under the radar and run up his strongest major league season.

Dombrowski traded Porcello away from the Tigers to the Red Sox and then inherited the pitcher during Porcello's 9-15 first season in Boston. The Red Sox signed him to the big contract four months after acquiring him from Detroit but before he threw a regular-season pitch with his new team.

Since May 22, he is 11-1 with a 3.12 ERA, and he is 3-1 with a 2.39 ERA in August. At Tampa Bay last week, Porcello pitched 7 2/3 innings of three-run ball, striking out eight without issuing a walk.

The current Rays roster has a collective .272 batting average against Porcello, with Brad Miller hitting three home runs among his four hits in 15 at-bats against the right-hander. Evan Longoria (10-for-40) and Corey Dickerson (3-for-13) have also homered against Porcello.

Longoria has 15 homers in 72 games at Fenway Park.

Andriese (6-5, 3.71 ERA) has pitched twice against Boston this year -- an impressive two-inning relief outing at Fenway Park on July 10, during which he struck out five, and last week's quality start, when he gave up three runs in six innings. Andriese fanned eight and walked one Wednesday.

He is 0-3 with a 5.63 ERA in eight appearances since the All-Star break, but Andriese, who turned 27 on Sunday, said he was eager to face the potent Red Sox again.

The last-place Rays (55-74) won the final two games to earn a split of the four-game series with the Red Sox last week. Tampa Bay lost the first two in Houston before beating the Astros 10-4 on Sunday.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash is not pleased with his club's fundamentals.

"As a staff, we're losing sleep over it," Cash said Sunday, according to the Tampa Bay Tribune. "Look, we've got a group of some young players here. We're always going to have young players. But at some point those young players, even though they are young, we've got find a way to impact them to where they're making positive decisions and adjustments in their game.

"We've spent a lot of time talking about it, what can we do better this last month, what we can address more of. It's going to take all of us, myself, getting a little more hands-on and coaching these guys, trying to play it out how it's going to happen before it actually does. I think there'd be some benefit to that."

The Red Sox, who still have to go back to St. Petersburg from Sept. 23-25, lead the season series with the Rays 7-6, going 4-2 at Fenway Park.

Boston lost two of three to the Royals over the weekend, including a 10-4 setback Sunday night. Kansas City trailed 4-2 entering the sixth inning before erupting for its biggest inning in three years.

The Red Sox (72-58) are two games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East, and they are a game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles for the first AL wild card.