Increased comfort, increased power for Bay
Tampa Bay (14-17) at Boston (19-11), 3:40 p.m. ET
BOSTON -- Jason Bay might not be a fan of statistics, but his numbers have become difficult to ignore.
The left fielder, who clubbed his ninth home run of the season in Friday's 7-3 victory over Tampa Bay at Fenway Park, is in the middle of a prodigious power surge that has coincided with his growing comfort level in a Boston uniform.
"I don't look at my statistics," said Bay, whose Red Sox play host to the Rays in Saturday's FOX Game of the Week. "I don't particularly like to. It's just something that sometimes you're looking at different numbers and you try to do this or that. Over the course of the season, you're going to see your numbers, but it's not something I focus on. It's a long season."
One year removed from the blockbuster trade that brought him to Boston, Bay isn't viewed as the new guy anymore. And that's just fine with the soft-spoken slugger.
"It didn't bother me," he said of the attention he received last season. "But it was nice to go into Spring Training and just be another guy. I wasn't the novelty. I was just a regular left fielder of the Red Sox. I relish that. I really like blending in with the team and being another guy on this team rather than the standout news story."
Though his bat has been a constant in the Boston lineup throughout the young season, Bay has particularly flourished during the recent absence of regular cleanup hitter Kevin Youkilis. Friday's homer was the second in as many nights and fourth in five games for Bay, who is batting .400 (8-for-20) over his last five contests with 12 RBIs and seven runs scored.
"Good players certainly go through stretches where they're feeling good about themselves," said manager Terry Francona. "Sometimes they last a long time. I hope it does. When you see guys that are walking and hitting for power, there's a pretty good chance they feel good about themselves."
"I've been fortunate enough to see the ball well and not miss pitches," Bay said. "There's one or two pitches that you have a chance to hit hard, and the last week or so, it's been working out for me. It's not always going to be that way, but you'll take it."
BOS: LHP Jon Lester (2-2, 5.11 ERA)
The power lefty is coming off one of his best performances of the season, as he struck out 10 over seven innings in Monday's win over the Yankees. He allowed six hits and three runs in that victory. This is his second start of the season against the Rays. He did not fare well in the first one, allowing eight hits and five runs over five innings. In his career against the Rays, he is 4-1 with a 3.97 ERA. TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (3-3, 6.00 ERA)
Kazmir made his sixth start of the season on Monday night against the Orioles and got into trouble from the get-go, walking the first two batters he faced before surrendering a three-run homer to Nick Markakis. He managed to give the Rays 6 1/3 innings, but he allowed six earned runs to take his third loss of the season. He is 7-7 with a 3.52 ERA in 22 career starts against the Red Sox, including a 5-4 record and 2.88 ERA in 12 starts at Fenway Park. Tidbits
Youkilis is expected to miss his fifth consecutive game on Saturday with a sore left side. ... Dustin Pedroia logged his second four-hit effort of the season on Friday, raising his average to .336. ... With a win on Saturday, Francona will pass Bill Carrigan for third on the team's all-time wins list, with 490 victories.
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Sunday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 3-2, 6.75) vs. Rays (Matt Garza, 3-2, 3.51), 8:05 p.m. ET
Tuesday: Red Sox (Justin Masterson, 2-2, 5.28) at Angels (Anthony Ortega, 0-2, 9.24), 10:05 p.m. ET
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.