Red Sox-Rays Preview
John Lackey is healthy again, and that's meant trouble for opponents.
The Tampa Bay Rays, though, have given him trouble in recent years, something he'd like to put an end to Monday night.
Lackey looks to turn in his fifth straight strong start when the Boston Red Sox visit the Rays to open a three-game series.
The Red Sox (39-25) have won six of eight after taking two of three at home against the Angels over the weekend. They got two home runs from Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ortiz's 13th homer in a 10-5 victory Sunday.
''This is a great clubhouse, a great group of guys. It starts with the top and works its way down,'' Saltalamacchia said. ''Everybody knows their role and everybody knows what approach to take, which makes things easier. We've got a good group of veterans with a good group of young guys.
"It's a lot of fun, especially being in first place, but we know we have to focus on tomorrow.''
Ortiz, who has homered in three of his last four, has batted .353 with 14 RBIs in his last 15 contests against the Rays.
Lackey (3-5, 2.79 ERA) went 1-4 with a 4.05 ERA in his first five starts but has posted a 1.44 ERA in the past four. He limited the Rangers to one run over six innings of a 3-2 loss Wednesday.
The right-hander appears to be rediscovering his dominant form from before Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss all of last season. Lackey also spent three weeks on the disabled list in April with a right biceps strain.
"I think I'll take giving up one run for the rest of the way," Lackey said. "I feel pretty good. I feel like I'm competing at a pretty high level right now."
However, he's gone 3-6 with a 7.55 ERA in his last nine starts against Tampa Bay, dating to 2009. Boston has won five of six meetings with the Rays this year, with Lackey suffering the lone defeat after giving up five runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-3 road loss May 14.
The Rays (34-28) had won 10 of 13 before Matt Moore allowed a career-high nine runs and 12 hits in five innings of a 10-7 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.
Looking to help Tampa Bay rebound will be Alex Cobb (6-2, 2.39 ERA), who's gone 0-1 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox this season. Like Lackey, Cobb has also been outstanding in his past four starts, going 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA.
He gave up five hits in 7 2-3 innings of a 3-0 win at Detroit on Thursday after missing his previous start due to a cut finger on his throwing hand.
"One thing that's helped me this year, regardless of what happened my last outing, I kind of re-start my first day out there," Cobb told the team's official website. "I'll start like my last start didn't happen."
Boston's Dustin Pedroia will look to extend a 13-game hitting streak, during which he is 17 of 51 (.333) with 10 RBIs.
Yunel Escobar is 7 for 13 against Lackey.