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John Lackey Sharp as Red Sox Beat Rays, 7-4

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John Lackey followed his last outing against the Yankees -- a gem which manager John Farrell called arguably the right-hander’s best showing in a Red Sox uniform – with another impressive showing Tuesday night, as the Red Sox beat the Rays, 7-4, at Fenway Park. Lackey went eight innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a with five strikeouts. He earned the win, improving to 4-2, lowering his ERA from 4.22 to 3.83.

Rays starter Erik Bedard nearly matched Lackey early in the game, but the lefty’s pitch count – 104 pitches in five innings – forced him out of the game with the score tied, 1-1. The Rays pen quickly gave the Sox a decisive lead, as the Sox sent nine batters to the plate in the sixth inning against right-handers Brandon Gomes and Juan Carlos Oviedo, scoring five runs.

Edward Mujica replaced Lackey for the ninth. He faced five batters, allowing the first two to reach – James Loney on a ground-rule double and Wil Myers on a walk. Mujica retired David DeJesus on a groundout to Xander Bogaerts at short, with the runners moving up. But, Bogaerts threw wild to Mike Napoli on Yunel Escobar’s infield single, with two runs scoring. After retiring Ryan Hanigan on a fly out to Shane Victorino in right, Mujica was done, with Koji Uehara entering.

Uehara, needed just three pitches to retire Ben Zobrist on a swinging strikeout, for his sixth save.

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THE HIGHLIGHTS:
• The bottom third of the Red Sox order – A.J. Pierzynski, Will Middlebrooks, and Jackie Bradley – combined to go 5-for-11, with four runs scored, four RBI, three doubles, a walk, and two strikeouts.
• The Sox sent nine batters to the plate in their five-run sixth inning

THE LOWLIGHTS:
• Xander Bogaerts was the only member of the Sox’ starting lineup without a hit.

THE STARS:
• John Lackey went eight innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a with five strikeouts. He earned the win, improving to 4-2, lowering his ERA from 4.22 to 3.83. He went at least eight innings in consecutive outings for the first time in his Red Sox career, seventh overall. The last time he did so was Aug. 30 and Sept. 19, 2009, with the Angels.
• Shane Victorino went 4-for-4 with a double, a sacrifice fly, and two RBI. It was the most hits in a game since he went 4-for-5 on June 21, 2013, at Detroit. In three games since being activated from the DL on Thursday, Victorino had been 2-for-15 with five strikeouts.
• Erik Bedard went five innings, giving up one run on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts. It was the first time he allowed one or fewer run since Sept. 29, 2013, with the Astros against the Yankees, when he went seven scoreless innings.

WHAT’S HAPPENING:
• Since the roster with which the Sox expected to start the season became available for the first time on Friday, the Sox have gone 3-1, scoring seven or more runs in the three wins, after doing so just once in their first 23 games.

• The Red Sox have won the first game in two straight series, and third overall, along with a win over the Rangers on April 7, also a Lackey start.

• Rays starter pitchers have gone five or fewer innings in 11 of their last 15 games, with a combined ERA of 6.24, giving up 52 earned runs over 75 innings in that span. The Rays have lost six of their last seven games and are now a season-low five games under .500.

AROUND THE BASES:
• Mike Napoli extended his career-high on-base streak to 22 games, over which he is batting .313, going 26-for-83, with 12 walks, getting hit by a pitch twice. It is the longest on-base streak by a Red Sox batter since David Ortiz reached in 23 straight games last season. Only Toronto’s Jose Bautista, with 26 games, has a longer active streak, with Oakland’s Josh Donaldson also at 22 games.
• Jackie Bradley is batting .423, going 11-for-26, with runners in scoring position this season. With two doubles he had multiple extra-base hits for the third time in his career and second in his last four games. His nine extra-base hits this month are the most by a Sox rookie since Shea Hillenbrand’s 12 in 2001.
• Shane Victorino went 4-for-4 and has hit safely in three of four games since being activated form the DL on Thursday. It was his 14th career game with four or more hits and second with the Sox. It was the first time he had a hit in every at-bat in game with at least four at-bats since July 25, 2009, while with the Phillies against the Cardinals, when he also went 4-for-4.
• Five of Will Middlebrooks’ seven hits this season have been for extra bases, with three doubles and two home runs.
• A.J. Pierzynksi has three game-winning RBI this season, most on the Sox.
• Dustin Pedroia extended his on-base streak to 11 games, in which he is batting .326, going 15-for-46, with seven walks.
• David Ortiz’s RBI single in the eighth inning was his 911th career hit at Fenway Park, moving him two behind Dom DiMaggio for seventh-most all-time at Fenway. Of those 911 hits, 900 have been with the Sox, one with the Twins.
• Koji Uehara needed just three pitches to record a one-out save, striking out Ben Zobrist. He is now 6-for-6 in save opportunities. It is the second save of his career of three or fewer pitches, along with a one-pitch save on Aug. 29, 2010, with the Orioles at the Angels. The last Sox pitcher to record a save of three or fewer pitches was Jonathan Papelbon on June 29, 2009, at Baltimore, when he needed three pitches.

UP NEXT:
The Sox and Rays resume their three-game set at Fenway Park Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. Left-hander Felix Doubront (1-3, 6.00 ERA) is scheduled to start, opposed by right-hander Chris Archer (2-1, 4.11).

Doubront has struggled to find consistency this season. In his last outing, April 24 against the Yankees, he lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs, three earned on six hits and two walks with a strikeout, a home run, and two wild pitches, matching his career high for the fourth time. He was not helped by five Sox errors, including one of his own, but also allowed three stolen bases in one inning.

In 11 appearances against the Rays, including eight starts, he is 2-3 with a 3.24 ERA, giving up 18 earned runs in 50 innings. It is his second-lowest ERA against all AL opponents. Against the Rays at Fenway, he is 0-2 with a 3.28 ERA, giving up nine earned runs in 24 2/3 innings.

Archer has gone at least six innings in four of his five starts this season. Since the beginning of 2013, the Rays are 15-2 when he goes at least six innings in a start, and 2-9 when he does not. One of those two losses was in his last start, Friday at the White Sox, when he received a no-decision.

In three career starts against the Sox, Archer is 1-2 with a 5.27 ERA, allowed eight earned runs in 13 2/3 innings. He made two starts against the Sox last season, but did not last five innings in either start, going 0-2 with a 5.19 ERA, giving up five earned runs in 8 2/3 innings. He last faced the Sox on June 18, 2013, in his only career start at Fenway. He took the loss in that game, going 4 2/3 innings, giving up four runs, three earned, on five hits, and five walks, with five strikeouts, throwing 109 pitches, 64 for strikes.