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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. Alex Cobb

09.26.12 at 9:05 am ET
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Jon Lester will make the start as the Red Sox face the Rays for the 17th and final time this season after losing the opening game of their two-game set. Still, the Red Sox already have clinched the season series, leading 9-7.

It’€™s been some time since Lester (9-13, 4.96 ERA) has faced the Rays this season. In fact, Lester, who has 21 starts against the Rays in his career, made just one start against them season — back on May 25. The one start did not go well. Lester lasted just four innings and gave up all seven runs in a 7-4 Tampa Bay victory. The four innings are tied for Lester’€™s shortest outing of the season while the seven runs are tied for the second most he’€™s surrendered all season.

Fortunately for Lester, his career numbers against Tampa are much better than he’€™s shown in 2012. However, the numbers are not as strong as would be expected against a Tampa team that’€™s never boasted an elite lineup. Lester is 10-7 in his 21 starts against the Rays but has a 4.29 ERA against them, the highest against any AL East opponent. He’s given up 15 home runs, which is tied for the most he’€™s given up against any opponent. On the flip side, Lester has more strikeouts against the Rays than any other team, although he has given up the second-most walks of any opponent. Also of note: The Rays’€™ 17 steals against Lester is more than double the next closest team’€™s total of eight.

Lester has a long track record against a solid portion of the Tampa Bay lineup and has performed well against the longest-tenured portion of the roster. As a group, the current Rays are hitting .222 against Lester with an OPS of .711. Only Carlos Pena, who has an OPS of 1.169 in 50 plate appearances, has done particularly well against Lester of any player who has faced the lefty more than 10 times. Meanwhile, some of the Rays’€™ younger bats, namely Desmond Jennings, Elliot Johnson and Matthew Joyce, have posted solid numbers against Lester in limited sample sizes.

Meanwhile, the last Tampa Bay starter the Red Sox lineup will face this season is Alex Cobb, who last pitched on Sept. 17 — also against the Red Sox. Cobb was effective in that outing, pitching six innings and giving up three runs. However, he would go on to take the loss in a 5-2 Red Sox win. Meanwhile, in his first start against the Red Sox back on May 25, Cobb was much more effective, giving up one run over five innings and earning the win in a 7-4 Tampa Bay victory.

The 24-year-old Cobb (9-9, 4.27) is finishing up his first full season in the majors after making nine starts last year and has shown flashes of brilliance as well as glaring inconsistencies. In his last six starts, Cobb has alternated outings in which he went deep into games and pitched well with starts when he couldn’€™t stay in the game long. Most notably, Cobb gave up eight runs in just 2 2/3 innings on Aug. 18 before throwing a four-hit complete game shutout five days later.

The current Red Sox lineup has seen very little of Cobb so far and has hit even less. As a group, the Red Sox have three hits in 34 at-bats against Cobb (an .088 average) and one extra-base hit (a two-run home run by Jacoby Ellsbury), which boils down to an atrocious .382 OPS. Only one member of the Red Sox lineup, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, has reached base on multiple occasions against Cobb, doing so on three walks.

Orioles vs. Lester (LHP)

B.J. Upton (57 plate appearances): .212 BA/.268 OBP/.346 SLG, 1 double, 2 home runs, 4 RBIs, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts

Carlos Pena (50): .282/.400/.769, 1 double, 6 home runs, 14 RBIs, 7 walks, 11 strikeouts

Evan Longoria (42): .243/.333/.405, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 6 RBIs, 5 walks, 12 strikeouts

Ben Zobrist (38): .219/.342/.344, 1 double, 1 home runs, 6 RBIs, 6 walks, 15 strikeouts

Sean Rodriguez (20): .125/.250/.188, 1 double, 3 RBIs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Jose Molina (17): .333/.412/.333, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Ben Francisco (15): .143/.200/.143, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Luke Scott (11): .000/.000/.000, 5 strikeouts

Desmond Jennings (10): .333/.400/.556, 2 doubles, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Elliot Johnson (7): .286/.286/.714, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 1 strikeout

Sam Fuld (6): .167/.167/.167, 1 RBI, 1 strikeouts

Jose Lobaton (5): .000/.000/.000, 2 strikeouts

Matthew Joyce (4): .667/.750/1.667, 1 home run, 4 RBIs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Chris Gimenez (2): .000/.000/.000

Red Sox vs. Cobb (RHP)

Mike Aviles (6 plate appearances): .000 BA/.000 OBP/.000 SLG, 1 strikeout

Dustin Pedroia (6): .000/.167/.000, 1 walk

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (5): .000/.600/.000, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts

Scott Podsednik (4): .250/.250/.500, 1 strikeout

Pedro Ciriaco (6): .000/.000/.000

Jacoby Ellsbury (3): .333/.333/1.333, 1 home run, 2 RBIs

James Loney (3): .333/.333/.333

Cody Ross (3): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Jose Iglesias (2): .000/.500/.000

Ryan Lavarnway (2): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Daniel Nava (2): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

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