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06/27/10 7:34 PM ET

Red Sox looking to stay on track against Rays

Oh, how much has changed since John Lackey last opposed the Rays at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox, trudging through their worst start since the 1996 season, found themselves on the receiving end of a humbling 8-2 defeat on April 19, a Patriots Day matchup in which the Rays tagged Lackey for a season-high eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings to complete a four-game sweep.

That was then. This is now.

Boston has since righted itself, reeling off a 42-22 surge dating back to April 20. So too has Lackey, who has won seven of his past nine decisions and will oppose James Shields on Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game series at Fenway.

"We've enjoyed the fruits of our labor, but we know what the ultimate goal is," Red Sox center fielder Mike Cameron said. "We want to get to the postseason and win the World Series. We've got a long way to go, but it is gratifying, because we've come a long way."

The loss of two-time All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia to a fractured left foot isn't exactly cause for celebration for the Rays, who know better than to underestimate Boston's high-powered offense.

"Sometimes, you get good teams like that and they have a tendency to rally around the wound," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "All of a sudden, somebody else picks it up who maybe hadn't been doing it earlier. [Pedroia] not being there doesn't necessarily mean they'll be missing anything. Often times, you'll see somebody else surface, so that would be my concern."

"They're still a dangerous lineup," said Tampa Bay right-hander Matt Garza, who will take the hill Wednesday.

But not quite as dangerous without Pedroia, a player so vital to the Red Sox's success.

"He's a wheel-turner for them, so they're going to have to find a guy to duplicate what he does -- the grittiness, the hustle and the hard play," Garza said. "There aren't a lot of guys who can do that. The only guy I can think of who played as hard as he does might be Pete Rose. I never liked that guy, but I loved watching him play. That's something you don't really see a lot: a guy that small, with that big of a heart, who plays that hard.

"It's hard to replace those guys. It would be like us trying to replace [Carl Crawford] or [Evan Longoria]. It's going to be tough, but it can be done."

Rays: Tough on the road
Tampa Bay has lost eight of its past 11 contests. ... The Rays' 24-12 road record is the best by an American League club through 36 games since the 2006 Tigers (26-10).

Red Sox: Beltre hitting his stride
Third baseman Adrian Beltre has hit safely in 20 of his past 22 games, batting .353 (30-for-85) with six home runs and 15 RBIs during that stretch. ... Designated hitter David Ortiz's 333 career homers are tied for 90th all-time.

Worth noting
Shields has faced the Red Sox twice this season, going 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA. ... Lackey is 10-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 14 career starts against the Rays.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.