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Lackey tries to extend unbeaten run in finale with Rays

Boston Red Sox starter John Lackey will put his unbeaten game series versus rival Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.

Lackey is 6-0 with a 3.92 earned run average over his last seven starts, with the Red Sox going 6-1 in that span. He was last in action during Friday's 6-4 win at Seattle and held on for the win despite giving up four runs and 10 hits in six innings. Lackey improved to 11-8 in 20 starts and still owns a lofty 6.13 earned run average.

The veteran right-hander is 7-4 in 12 starts at Fenway Park this season and has dominated Tampa Bay in his career, going 12-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 17 starts. Lackey defeated the Rays on July 16 at Tropicana Field.

Boston could use a solid pitching performance after splitting a day-night doubleheader with the Rays on Tuesday. It won the opener of the twinbill, 3-1, as Jon Lester pitched seven innings of one-run ball and struck out eight batters. Daniel Bard hurled a scoreless eighth inning and Jonathan Papelbon followed in the ninth for his 28th save.

Jacoby Ellsbury's three-run homer in the third inning was all the Red Sox needed offensively.

"We always knew he could run the ball down and play good defense, but he's really showed his offensive side this season," Lester said about Ellsbury. "He had a chip on his shoulder coming into this season."

The nightcap was a different story for Red Sox starter Erik Bedard and the lefty was reached for three runs -- one earned -- and seven hits in six innings of work. Ellsbury homered again and Jason Varitek went deep for Boston, which is a half-game behind the New York Yankees for the AL East lead. Ellsbury became the first Boston player since Trot Nixon in 2003 to homer in both games of a doubleheader.

Boston also recorded its first triple-play since the 1994 season. Third baseman Jed Lowrie complete the 5-4-3 troika in the fourth inning. Milwaukee turned a 4-6-3-2 triple play against the Dodgers on Monday. In other Boston news, designated hitter/first baseman David Ortiz is expected to miss a few more games with bursitis in his right heel.

The Red Sox have lost four of their last six games.

Tampa Bay wasted a solid performance from James Shields in the opener and the right-hander lasted eight innings, allowing all three runs and three hits with six K's and a walk. Evan Longoria drove in the lone run in defeat.

Jeff Niemann went the distance for the win in the second contest and yielded just two runs and three hits, while striking out 10 batters.

"I was just trying to keep those guys off-balanced a bit. Fastball command was pretty good today, so I was able to get early strikes with it," Niemann said.

B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist each posted three hits and scored two runs, and Desmond Jennings hit a solo homer for the Rays, who ended a two-game slide to win for the ninth time in 13 tries.

David Price gets the starting nod Wednesday for Tampa Bay and hopes to move over the .500 mark with a win. He is 10-10 with a 3.76 ERA in 25 starts this season and was 0-3 in four starts before beating the Yankees on the road in a 5-1 triumph on Friday. He held the Bronx Bombers to a run and six hits in eight innings of work.

Price, a left-hander, defeated the Red Sox on July 15 this season at the Trop and is 5-3 with a 3.55 ERA in eight career starts in this matchup.

Boston and Tampa Bay have split 10 meetings this season.