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BOS@ATL: Lester fans seven, holds Braves to three

The Red Sox's pendulum keeps swinging back the other way.

With its 7-1 win against the Rays on Saturday night, Boston has won six straight games following its 10-game losing streak -- and it enters Sunday afternoon's series finale at Fenway Park in the opposite position of the one it was in after last weekend's series in St. Petersburg.

There's been one constant in the past two series between Tampa Bay and Boston: the benches cleared in both -- in last Sunday's finale and Friday's opener.

"I think it's clear that there's a lot of emotion that plays out in these games and in series with Tampa," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "But our focus and my focus is how we go about executing tonight to win a ballgame."

Other than that, the teams' situations have flipped.

This time last weekend, the Red Sox were on the verge of being swept by the Rays. Now, they're the ones looking to complete the sweep. A week ago, Tampa Bay had sent Boston spiraling into last place in the American League East. Now, the Rays are firmly at the bottom of the division.

The Red Sox are still three games under .500, but they're in better shape than they were last Sunday, when the Rays' sweep left them 20-29. The Rays, on the other hand, have lost five straight to fall to 10 games under .500. They're 23-33, the worst record in the AL.

On Sunday afternoon, Boston's ace, lefty Jon Lester, will square off against Tampa Bay veteran lefty Erik Bedard.

Lester had a solid May, with quality starts in four of his five outings. The one dud was a 6 1/3-inning, seven-run shelling by Toronto on May 22 -- but Lester is far from the only pitcher to be hit hard by the Blue Jays lately.

Bedard certainly was. He gave up eight runs to Toronto in his last start on May 26, in just four innings. That ended a streak of five straight starts of Bedard allowing one earned run or fewer.

Red Sox: Left field belongs to Gomes
• Jonny Gomes has taken over the starting job in front of the Green Monster.

Farrell said Gomes has established himself as Boston's everyday left fielder -- he's not just a power-hitting right-handed bat to start against lefties -- and he'll start Sunday's series finale.

"He's been in the lineup against some right-handers, and with Bedard going [Sunday], he'll be back in there again," Farrell said.

With Boston regulars Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli on the disabled list, two of the other options for Boston in left field, Grady Sizemore and Mike Carp, have been starting in right field and at first base.

But Farrell said that regardless of matchup, Gomes has earned his spot.

"He's taken the job," the skipper said. "It's about competition and who's producing. Even though you'd like to put guys in position to match up, Jonny's taken the job."

Rays: Solis forced out of first start
• Catcher Ali Solis' first start with the Rays wasn't exactly a night to remember.

Solis had to be removed from Saturday night's game against the Red Sox in the third inning, during his first at-bat, when a pitch bounced off the dirt and Boston catcher A.J. Pierzynski and hit him in the nose.

Rays manager Joe Maddon had opted to start Solis to give Jose Molina an off-day, saying he expected Molina to start Sunday. But Molina was forced into action when Solis couldn't stay in the game after being hit.

To add insult to injury, Molina struck out after replacing Solis -- but the strikeout was charged to Solis because he had left the at-bat with a two-strike count. So Solis is 0-for-1 as a Ray with one strikeout -- in an at-bat he didn't even get to finish.

Maddon said he wanted to start Molina on Sunday in part because Molina has "had some success" against Lester. Molina has nine hits in 26 career at-bats against Lester, a .346 average.

Molina might start Sunday, especially if Solis is unable to go.

Worth noting
• Boston optioned Daniel Nava to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Saturday's starter, Rubby De La Rosa, who pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out eight.

• Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier hit an inside-the-park home run in Saturday night's game, when Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. couldn't make a leaping catch against the Green Monster.

• Following their road trip, which ends Tuesday night in Miami, the Rays will play 18 of their next 21 games at Tropicana Field. Comments