|Rays on roll heading into series with Red Sox|
BOSTON -- When the Tampa Bay Rays left Boston April 8, they were 1-8 with eight straight losses.
A lot has changed for Kevin Cash's team as it returns to Fenway Park for a three-game series this weekend.
The Rays open the series with Blake Snell looking for his fourth straight win when he faces Boston's Drew Pomeranz in Friday night's rain-threatened series opener.
Tampa Bay has won six straight games and has scored 47 runs while doing it, getting their record up to 10-13 for its third series of the opening month-plus against the Red Sox.
The Rays, 9-5 winners in Baltimore Thursday night, have scored at least eight runs in their last five games, the streak two games longer than any such previous streak in team history. They have hit nine homers in their last four games.
It is their longest winning streak since a nine-gamer for Joe Maddon in July 2014.
"It's pretty exciting to sit back and watch us put runs on the board, especially when we were quiet for the earlier part of the year," Cash said after Thursday night's win. "I am really impressed with the guys."
Tampa opened the season by rallying for six runs in the eighth inning to beat the Red Sox, then lost six in a row to the high-flying Red Sox and are part of Boston's 19-5 start.
The Red Sox, who started 17-2 before Sean Manaea's no-hitter began a three-game losing streak, won their last two games in Toronto.
Pomeranz makes his second start of the season Friday night.
Both teams could be getting important infielders back for this game -- Boston's Xander Bogaerts (crack in ankle suffered April 8) and Tampa Bay's Matt Duffy (hamstring) both hope to return for this series.
"I talked to him today and he was very upbeat," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Bogaerts, who was injured running down an errant throw and sliding into the visitors' dugout at Fenway. "He didn't have to convince me. He was emphatic and genuine and he said it with conviction. He's upbeat and we're looking forward to having him back at shortstop in the middle of the lineup. It seems like -- I know it's (just) a rehab game -- but his swing is still there."
But the Red Sox will be without reliever Joe Kelly, who served the first game of a six-game suspension for drilling the Yankees' Tyler Austin Thursday night -- and Brock Holt left Thursday night's game with left hamstring tightness.
Snell, who would have pitched Thursday night had it not been for a rainout earlier in the Baltimore series, has won three straight starts, striking out 25 in those outings. Dating back to last season, he is 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA in his last 15 starts.
Snell is just 1-3 with a 4.62 ERA against the Red Sox in his young career -- 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in two starts at Fenway. He pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox, with no decision, March 30.
Pomeranz returned from the disabled list and minor league rehab and went 3 2/3 innings, yielding three runs on five hits and striking out seven in his first start last weekend. The Red Sox won that game.
The Boston lefty is 4-2 with a 3.59 ERA in nine games, eight starts, lifetime against the Rays.
Despite the lefty-lefty matchup, Tampa's Brad Miller is 10-for-19 with a homer and six RBIs lifetime against Pomeranz. Denard Span is 3-for-10 (.300) but Adeina Hechavarria is 0-for-9 and C.J. Cron 2-for-9 (.222).
For the Red Sox against Snell, Sandy Leon is 4-for-8 (.500) Hanley Ramirez 4-or-9 (.444) and Andrew Benintendi 3-for-9 (.333). Mookie Betts is just 3-for-13 (.231) but with a homer and four RBIs and Bogaerts a dismal 0-for-11.