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TIME: Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET
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BOSTON -- Two American League East rivals with very different immediate goals clash when the Boston Red Sox play host to the Tampa Bay Rays for three games at Fenway Park this weekend.
For the Red Sox, the goal is to win another series, which would be their third straight, and hit the All-Star break very much in contention to contend for another last-to-first scenario.
For the last-place Rays, the aim is to just try to win games. Perhaps even two straight at some point. That hasn't happened since a three-game winning streak June 12-15.
The Red Sox (46-38) closed a 10-16 June by losing two of three to the floundering Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. They then came home for a nine-game homestand and won two of three against the Los Angeles Angels -- including a 21-2 loss -- before doing the same against the Texas Rangers, who have the best record in the AL.
Boston is three games behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.
"We've played much better baseball except for the one game this month," Red Sox manager John Farrell said after his team won the rubber match of a three-game series with Texas on Wednesday night. "It's nice to get back to back series wins."
The last-place Rays, meanwhile, have won only one other game in their last 22 besides the two they captured against the Red Sox, the 3-19 run representing the worst stretch in franchise history. They ended their homestand with a 5-1 loss to the Angels on Thursday, dropping three of four (the last three) in that series while falling deeper into the abyss.
Tampa Bay (34-51) leads the season series 4-2.
Two pitchers hoping to build on significant outings last Sunday square off in Friday night's series opener.
Tampa Bay's Chris Archer (4-11, 4.50 ERA) hasn't won since June 6, but he worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. He loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning and then struck out three straight en route to a 10-strikeout effort.
"Can't help but feel really good about what Chris Archer did today," Rays manager Kevin Cash said Sunday. "For the way it started, and the way he kicked it in gear and kind of showed us the Archer that we know he's very capable of being. That was an outstanding effort, outstanding performance."
On the same day, a day after Boston was pummeled by the Angels, Sean O'Sullivan came up from Triple-A Pawtucket and gave the Red Sox what they needed -- five-plus innings of two-run ball, both runs scoring after the left with two runners on.
It earned the veteran journeyman at least this last start before the break, with Clay Buchholz demoted to the bullpen for the second time this season.
"That was, I'd say, one of the highlights of my career for sure," O'Sullivan said Sunday of receiving an ovation while leaving the Fenway Park mound.
He is 13-23 on his big-league journey -- 0-2 in two career starts against Tampa Bay, but the second of those was in 2010.
The Red Sox have won all three of his starts, and all have come at Fenway.
Archer has had a terrible time of it against Boston, going 1-8 with a 5.67 ERA in 13 starts lifetime, 0-2 this season.
David Ortiz, whose bat flip after a 2014 homer evoked verbal criticism from the young right-hander, is 12-for-31 (.387) with two homers and 15 RBIs against him, while Xander Bogaerts is 6-for-16 and Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw both 3-for-7. Mookie Betts has two homers in his four hits against Archer.
The Red Sox will have a new face for the game after acquiring Aaron Hill from the Milwaukee Brewers for two minor-leaguers on Thursday. Hill figures to serve as a reserve across the infield.