Red Sox-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb earned an unique distinction in his last start, but likely needs to pitch better than he did if the Rays are to bounce back from their first defeat in a week.

After their ace was injured during another rough outing, Cobb and the Rays try to keep the visiting Boston Red Sox from winning two straight for the first time in two weeks Thursday night.

Cobb (4-2, 3.09 ERA) allowed three runs and struck out 13 while throwing 112 pitches in 4 2-3 innings of a 6-3 win over San Diego on Friday. The right-hander became the first major leaguer to fan 13 while failing to complete five innings.

"I don't know if that's a good thing,'' he said. "As a starting pitcher, you want to go at least five innings every time out.''

He recorded 12 of 14 outs on strikeouts, including four in the third inning when a wild pitch on strike three allowed Will Venable to reach base.

"I can't really explain why or how that happened. It was just one of those weird days,'' he said. "Obviously, that's not my goal. I never go into a game trying to strike everybody out."

The Boston native is 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox (23-17). He gave up four runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-0 loss at Fenway Park on April 14.

Cobb looks to help the Rays (20-19) regroup after their season-high six-game winning streak ended with a 9-2 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday.

Stephen Drew hit his second career grand slam to highlight an eight-run third inning as Boston roughed up David Price to snap a three-game skid. Price left because of tightness in his left triceps after he allowed four runs in 2 1-3 innings.

"It's just something I take pride in, being available every fifth day and being out there for my team,'' Price said. "I don't know how that's looking right now, but I'll just get re-evaluated (Thursday)."

The Red Sox won for the third time in 12 games by equaling their run total from the previous three contests. Jon Lester threw seven strong innings to improve to 6-0 for Boston, which last won two straight May 1-2.

"It's bound to turn around,'' Drew said. "(Wednesday) was a great night to have and hopefully we can keep it going.''

With two hits Wednesday, Boston's Dustin Pedroia is batting .517 (15 for 29) in the last seven games.

Scheduled Red Sox starter Felix Doubront (3-1, 6.40) looks to avoid a third straight rough outing when he returns to the rotation in the decisive finale. The left-hander allowed six runs and a career-high 12 hits over 3 2-3 innings of a 7-0 loss at Texas on May 3. He then yielded six and 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings of relief in a 15-8 defeat to Minnesota last Wednesday.

Those outings came after he gave up 11 runs in 23 1-3 inning while going 3-0 in four April starts.

"The work I'm doing now, I know I can get better results," Doubront told the Red Sox's official website. "I'm looking forward to pitching (Thursday) and prove that everything I've been working on this past week is good."

He's 2-1 with a 4.03 ERA in four starts versus Rays.

Tampa Bay star Evan Longoria is batting .417 (15 for 36) while the Rays have gone 6-3 on a 10-game homestand.

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