Friday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. David Price

July 25, 2014 - 6:05 am

The Red Sox will kick off a crucial three-game series against the Rays Friday at Tropicana Field, as both teams look to claw their way back up the division standings. Boston will send ace Jon Lester to the mound against David Price in the series opener. Lester (10-7, 2.50 ERA) has been on another level for almost two months now, posting a 4-0 record with a minuscule 0.85 ERA over his last seven starts while not allowing an earned run in three of his last four starts. In his last outing Sunday against the Royals, Lester was once again in control from the first pitch, holding the Kansas City lineup to just four hits over eight innings while striking out eight en route to a 6-0 Red Sox win. "He's been a model for others to witness as players get to that stage in their career," said Red Sox manager John Farrell after the game. "I think in a professional manner, he's been very forthright in not wanting [his contract negotiations] to be a distraction to his teammates or to us as a team. And he's been able to go out and maintain that high level of focus." Lester was stellar in his last outing against the Rays on June 1, surrendering four hits and no runs over seven innings while striking out 12. In 27 career starts against the Rays, Lester is 13-9 with a 4.12 ERA. Not to be outdone, Price (10-7, 3.06 ERA) has turned in yet another dominant campaign in 2014, leading the majors in both strikeouts (173) and innings pitched (155 2/3). In his last outing Saturday against the Twins, Price allowed just four hits and no runs over eight innings, earning his fifth consecutive win in a 5-1 Rays victory. Price has thrown at least eight innings in seven of his last eight starts and stated that he is pitching at a higher level now than he did in 2012 when he earned the American League Cy Young Award. "I said that a month and a half ago. Six or seven starts ago," Price said after his last game. "I've never been the pitcher that I am right now. ... It's cool. I enjoy it. I want to get better every day. I'm constantly looking for things to critique, to give hitters something else to think about. I'm just never satisfied." Price was solid in his last appearance against the Red Sox on May 30, surrendering two earned runs over seven innings while striking out six. In 22 career starts against Boston, Price is 10-6 with a 3.06 ERA. That May 30 game was overshadowed by Price's feud with David Ortiz, as Ortiz took exception to being hit by a pitch and the benches cleared. Red Sox vs. Price (LHP) Dustin Pedroia (59 plate appearances): .255/.356/.392, 1 home run, 11 strikeouts David Ortiz (46): .225/.236/.300, 3 doubles, 5 RBIs Mike Napoli (28): .259/.286/.444, 2 doubles, 15 strikeouts Jonny Gomes (27): .167/.222/.208, 1 double, 7 strikeouts Daniel Nava (22): .100/.143/.100, 2 singles, 8 strikeouts Shane Victorino (21): .211/.286/.211, 4 singles, 2 walks Stephen Drew has one walk and five strikeouts in 11 plate appearances against Price. Xander Bogaerts (8): .500/.500/.625, 1 double, 1 RBI Brock Holt has one single and five strikeouts in eight plate appearances against Price. David Ross (8): .375/.375/1.125, 2 home runs, 2 RBIs Mike Carp has one RBI and one strikeout in seven plate appearances against Carp. Jackie Bradley Jr. has one single in six plate appearances against Carp. Rays vs. Lester (LHP) Evan Longoria (60): .245/.333/.472, 3 home runs, 19 strikeouts Ben Zobrist (57): .176/.263/.275, 1 home run, 19 strikeouts Yunel Escobar (42): .265/.366/.294, 1 double, 5 walks Sean Rodriguez (34): .222/.353/.296, 2 doubles, 4 RBIs Jose Molina (31): .321/.387/.357, 1 double, 8 strikeouts Desmond Jennings (29): .333/.379/.593, 2 doubles, 7 strikeouts Matthew Joyce (12): .364/.417/.909, 2 home runs, 6 RBIs James Loney (12): .300/.417/.400, 1 double, 3 strikeouts Logan Forsythe has two strikeouts in six plate appearances against Lester. Brandon Guyer has two singles and one strikeout in five plate appearances against Lester. Kevin Kiermaier has two strikeouts in three plate appearances against Lester.