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American League Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, May 25th (All times Eastern)

Tampa Bay Rays (27-18) at Boston Red Sox (22-22), 7:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Tampa Bay - Alex Cobb (1-0, 2.57) Boston - Jon Lester (3-3, 3.95)

(Sports Network) - The Boston Red Sox sent a message to the best team in the American League East at the moment earlier in the week.

Tonight, they get a chance to do the same against another divisional foe and go over .500 in the process when they start a three-game weekend set with the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.

After an abysmal start the Red Sox have clawed their way back to .500 (22-22) after taking two of three from the surprising AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles. Boston claimed that series win on Wednesday, as Daniel Nava and Scott Podsednik both hit solo home runs while Kelly Shoppach had a two-run homer to lead the Red Sox to a 6-5 win

Daniel Bard (4-5) allowed two runs on five hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings for Boston, which has won 10 of its last 13, claiming its last five series. The Red Sox, though, still sit in last place in the division and another win tonight would mark the latest date the club first posted a winning record since August 25, 1996.

Alfredo Aceves recorded the last four outs to earn his 11th save of the season.

The victory capped a 20-game stretch without a day off for Boston, which also finished an eight-game road trip.

"Well, like I said before the game -- and I told the guys if they were listening after the game -- just an amazing effort by a group of fabulous professionals who played through a lot of adversity, played through time zones, played through weather," said Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "They did one heck of a job winning these last two series. Going home at .500 is, I think, a feather in their cap. They played great."

The Red Sox return home tonight for the start of a seven-game homestand and will have left-hander Jon Lester on the hill. Lester won his second straight start on Saturday in Philadelphia, despite a so-so effort that saw him surrender four runs in six innings. Nonetheless he evened his mark at 3-3 to go along with a 3.95 ERA.

Lester has faced the Rays 20 times and is 10-6 against them with a 3.91 ERA.

Tampa, meanwhile, will counter with righty Alex Cobb, who will be making his second start of the year. Cobb beat the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, limiting them to two runs and six hits in seven innings.

"He got his innings in [at Triple-A Durham], guy gets hurt, he comes up, does what he's supposed to do, that's outstanding," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Tampa won the final two games of its series with Toronto earlier in the week, taking Wednesday's rubber match, 5-4, on B.J. Upton's 11th inning RBI double.

Jake McGee (1-1) struck out two in a perfect top of the 11th to earn the win while Drew Sutton had a two-run double for the Rays, who are a game back of the Orioles in the division.

Boston has won four of six from the Rays this season.

05/25 10:34:18 ET