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Rays-Red Sox preview

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Tonight-Thursday

What's new: The Sox continue their surprising run atop the AL East, combining the most productive offense in the majors with a strong rotation (though missing injured RHP Clay Buchholz) and a patched-together bullpen, with RHP Koji Uehara their third closer of the season. CF Jacoby Ellsbury has been hot for nearly two months and DH David Ortiz is back to his old self to lead an offense that tops the majors in runs, on-base percentage, total bases and more. The Sox's plus-90 run differential, going into play Sunday night, is best in the AL. LHP Matt Thornton was acquired from the White Sox to help the bullpen, which just lost LHP Andrew Miller and RHP Andrew Bailey to injury. SS Stephen Drew is back from the DL.

Key stat: Sox hitters, going into Sunday night's game, led the majors with 4.04 pitches seen per plate appearance, with Mike Napoli ranking first at 4.52.

Connections: OF Jonny Gomes is a former Rays favorite, 3B coach Brian Butterfield a former Eckerd College assistant. … Rays 1B James Loney is a former Red Sox, OF Sam Fuld a proud son of New Hampshire.

Series history: The Sox have won 9 of 12 this season and are 159-112 overall, 88-47 at Fenway.

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

Rays-Red Sox preview 07/21/13 [Last modified: Sunday, July 21, 2013 9:58pm]
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