Thursday July 25, 2013 | 06:38 AM

They kept the Red Sox from the 2008 World Series, and from the 2011 playoffs. The Tampa Bay Rays remain an obstacle for Boston.

Boston became the first American League team to 60 wins. Tamps Bay became the second AL team to do it. And after Wednesday's 5-1 win at Fenway, the Rays are a half-game behind the Red Sox (they are even in the loss column).

Tampa Bay's strength remains pitching. Just as Matt Moore stymied Boston on Monday, David Price did the same with a complete-game 5-hitter.

Felix Doubront (7-4, 3.78) remains solid for Boston. He pitched 6 2/3 inning: 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K ... According to the Red Sox, Doubront became the first Boston left-hander in the "live-ball era" (i.e. since 1920) to record 13 straight starts of three earned runs or fewer.

Streaky Mike Napoli has five home runs in his last 14 games ... Jose Iglesias, whose batting has been a marvel, is struggling in July (.217 average).

Tonight looks like another good pitching match-up: Jeremy Hellickson (9-3, 4.62) against John Lackey (7-7, 2.95) ... Hellickson is 8-1 since April.

The AL East standings: 

Red Sox 61-42
Rays 60-42 (0.5 games back)
Orioles 57-45 (3.5)
Yankees 53-48 (7)
Jays 45-55 (14.5)

Pawtucket starter Rubby De La Rosa went 5 innings: 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 3 K ... Jose Contreras pitched two hitless innings of relief (1 BB, 3 K) ... Xander Bogaerts (.256) hit his eighth home run in 36 Triple-A games ... Will Middlebrooks (.270) was 2-for-4 with a double.

Anthony Ranaudo (2.80 ERA) lasted 5 2/3 innings for Portland: 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 1 K ... Matt Maroney, who has bounced between the majors and minors and is coming back from Tommy John surgery, relieved for 1 1/3 perfect inning ... Noe Ramirez got the save: 2 IP, 1 BB.

The Sea Dogs, who have won six straight, return to Hadlock Field tonight. They are one game away from the Eastern League East wild card spot:

EL East Wild Card Race
New Hampshire  52-50
Trenton 52-51 (0.5 games back)
Portland 52-52 (1)
New Britain 48-56 (5)

Salem pounded out 15 hits, including three apiece from catcher Blake Swihart (.270), shortstop Deven Marrero (.263) and third baseman Stefan Welch (.348).


About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

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