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Red Sox take division lead to the Trop

The Boston Red Sox look to stretch their lead in the American League East standings on Monday when they visit Tropicana Field to begin a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Boston entered Monday with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East. The Red Sox, winners of six of eight, took two straight over the Angels to sweep the weekend series

After notching a 7-2 victory on Saturday, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered twice and designated hitter David Ortiz added his 13th homer in Sunday's 10-5 victory.

"This is a great clubhouse, a great group of guys. It starts with the top and works its way down," Saltalamacchia said. "Everybody knows their role and everybody knows what approach to take, which makes things easier. We've got a good group of veterans with a good group of young guys.

"It's a lot of fun, especially being in first place, but we know we have to focus on (Monday)."

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay began its 10-game homestand by taking two of three from Baltimore over the weekend. However, the lone loss came in Sunday's series finale, 10-7. Rays starter Matt Moore, after lasting just two innings in his previous start, was chased after five innings and eight earned runs allowed on 12 hits.

"Tonight, it was a legitimate beatdown. They definitely found the barrel a lot," Moore said following the game.

The Rays will turn to right-hander Alex Cobb for Monday's series opener. Cobb has allowed three earned runs or less in his last six starts, and he pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings at Detroit his last time out.

"One thing that's helped me this year, regardless of what happened my last outing, I kind of re-start my first day out there," said Cobb, who has fanned 69 batters in 75 1/3 innings. "I'll start like my last start didn't happen. I'll start from the ground up, working on my mechanics all over again, kind of forgetting what took place my last outing. And really focusing on making sure I feel comfortable going into my next start."

Cobb has already faced the Red Sox twice this season and allowed four earned runs over 13 innings, with 12 strikeouts.

For Boston, John Lackey has enjoyed something of a rebound season. The right- hander boasts a 2.79 ERA and has 50 strikeouts against only 14 walks in nine starts.

Lackey turned in his fourth straight solid start against Texas on Wednesday as he yielded just one earned run in six innings of work.

On the injury front, third baseman Will Middlebrooks is nearing a return from the DL, although his replacement, Jose Iglesias, has picked up three consecutive multi-hit games. Outfielder Shane Victorino returned from the 15- day disabled list on Saturday but then was given Sunday off, as Farrell looks to ease Victorino back into the everyday lineup.

"That might be two (days) on, one off, that type of scenario," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We're not stuck to that, either. Most of this is going to depend on how Shane responds.

"We know we've got to give him some time in between a stretch of games, whether that's every other day, every third day -- that's what we're working off."

Boston has won five of six meetings with the Rays so far this season.