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TOR@TB: Price records eight strikeouts over eight

Three times David Price and Jon Lester have gone head to head in their careers.

The final scores: Red Sox, 3-1, in 2010; Rays, 3-2, in 2011; Red Sox, 2-1, on April 13.

Three runs should be good enough at Tropicana Field on Wednesday in the fourth matchup of Price and Lester, who make up two of the three American League lefties who have struck out at least 600 batters since 2010.

"Obviously you know going into the game who you're pitching against," Lester said after his start against Price in early April. "The biggest thing is that you can't worry about that. You can't worry about, 'OK, we've got Price' -- or [CC] Sabathia or whoever it may be. You start worrying about the pitcher, you're worrying about the wrong things.

"But, obviously, in the back of your mind, you know, 'I've got to keep these guys close and give them a chance to maybe put a big inning together against him.'"

The April 13 matchup brought out the best in both pitchers: Lester went seven innings, allowing one run while striking out five; Price went six innings, allowing one run and striking out eight.

"It was one of my better ones of the year," Price said Tuesday. "I felt good in that game. I think it was a 3-2 changeup to David Ross that I gave up the run on, so it was a solo homer. But I felt good then and I feel good now."

While Price's 4.78 ERA may seem uncharacteristically high, his last outing was one of his best, as he allowed just two earned runs over eight innings while fanning eight.

The Rays have lost six of his eight starts this year after going 21-10 in his 31 starts last year.

After a slow start, the Rays are riding a six-game winning streak and the Red Sox, who turned in a torrid April, have lost nine of their last 11.

"I feel like this is the most consistent lineup that we've had," Price said of the Rays' offense, which has scored 75 runs in May. "We have the same couple guys who we know are going to get a couple hits a day, and you throw in the other four or five, they're all scrapping out hits as well."

Price, who underwent allergy tests Tuesday and has been dealing with blurry vision, hasn't won at Tropicana Field since July 19, 2012, a span of seven home starts.

While the Red Sox are scuffling at the plate recently, their ace is coming off his best start since 2008, when he pitched a one-hit shutout against the Blue Jays on Friday.

Lester made a simple change to his positioning on the pitching rubber, moving a little bit more toward the center of the plate, which allowed him to throw inside and outside pitches with two-way movement to both lefties and righties.

"It just makes the plate get bigger," pitching coach Juan Nieves said. "The plate becomes, instead of 17 [inches wide], it becomes 21 [inches wide]."

Red Sox: Ortiz gets first RBI in seven games
David Ortiz, who is dealing with oblique soreness, broke a six-game streak without driving in a run on Tuesday when he smashed a three-run homer off Rays lefty Matt Moore in the first. It was the first home run Ortiz has hit off a left-hander this season.

Ortiz has two hits in his last 24 at-bats.

"He might have been pulling off the ball more than when he first rejoined us," manager John Farrell said Sunday. "There's nothing abnormal here. We'd love to think he's going to hit .500 for the whole year, but that's probably going to tail off at some point.

"When he was in that good stretch when he first started, he was driving balls to straightaway left and left-center, which he got back to yesterday with the base hit to left. He's squared some balls up that haven't found a hole or carried, as they had when he first rejoined us. I can't say there's any one major issue he's dealing with mechanically."

Rays: Bullpen finding its way
Rays relievers combined to pitch three hitless innings against the Red Sox Tuesday, lengthening their scoreless streak to 16 2/3 innings.

Since beginning the season with a 5.29 ERA, the Rays bullpen has since lowered its ERA to 4.38. Tampa Bay relievers led the AL with a 2.88 ERA in 2012.

"I believe in these guys," manager Joe Maddon said. "I think by the end of the season the talent will win out -- and, actually, maybe a good learning experience at the beginning of the season for all of them."

Worth noting
• Andrew Bailey threw his first bullpen session since landing on the 15-day disabled list with a right biceps strain and is on track to return sometime during the Red Sox's nine-game road trip.

• Boston's Ryan Lavarnway is expected to get some work at catcher while David Ross continues to rest after sustaining a concussion on Saturday. Lavarnway, who was hitting .313 with a .408 OBP in Triple-A Pawtucket, went 0-for-3 in his first start of the season Tuesday.

• Jacoby Ellsbury walked twice Tuesday, marking just the second time in nine games that the Red Sox leadoff hitter has been on base twice.

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