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MIN@TB: Hellickson fans eight over six solid frames

For all that the Rays have accomplished, Thursday's game presents an opportunity for them to achieve a feat that has eluded them thus far -- winning a series against the Red Sox.

The Rays also have a chance to take over first place in the American League East for the first time since April 6, as the Red Sox lead by just a half-game.

Boston has already clinched the season series but through four three-game attempts this season, Tampa Bay has come up short when it comes to taking a set.

The Rays beat the Red Sox on Monday and Wednesday thanks to stellar pitching performances from Matt Moore and David Price, respectively, and will look to Jeremy Hellickson to do the same on Thursday.

Hellickson has won seven of his last nine starts, and the Rays have posted wins in his last six outings.

Hellickson, who has never lost a game at Fenway Park, knows the importance of Thursday's game, as the Rays will not return to Boston again during the regular season.

"We still have a month and a half left, but I think right now is when you start realizing every game is huge," Hellickson said. "Especially division games with teams that are ahead of you in the standings."

John Lackey will get the start for the Red Sox. Benches cleared the last time Lackey faced the Rays, on June 10, after he plunked Matt Joyce, who had homered off him earlier in the game.

The Red Sox said there was no intent behind the inside pitch. Joyce felt differently.

"Honestly, I felt like it was a pretty bush league move," Joyce said. "I think it was very obvious."

Lackey, 2-2 in July, gave up four runs on 10 hits in a loss to the Yankees on Saturday.

Rays: Wil power
Rookie right fielder Wil Myers continues to vault himself into the team's record books since being called up from Triple-A Durham on June 18.

Myers picked up two singles on Wednesday to notch his sixth consecutive multihit game, a team record by a first-year player. He hit a home run and a double on Tuesday.

Myers also stole second base on Tuesday for his fourth swipe of the season.

He has said that his baserunning ability is the most underrated part of his game, and manager Joe Maddon agrees.

"Wil has demonstrated a feel for running the bases," Maddon said. "He's fast. He slides well. He's done a lot of really good things on the bases. That's going to be a big part of his game."

Myers, a third-round Draft pick of the Royals in 2009, came to the Rays in exchange for pitcher James Shields during the offseason. His reputation around the league was based on what he can do with the bat, but Maddon says he's more than just a hitter. In fact, he has not committed an error through 28 starts in right field.

"Wil keeps it simple, but he works," Maddon said. "He has methods, and I kind of like it. For his first 100 at-bats, he's done pretty good -- good defense, runs well, throws well, hits with power. That's not a bad player to be."

Red Sox: Napoli boots up
First baseman Mike Napoli was the hero when he hit a series-clinching walk-off home run against the Yankees on Sunday, and he went deep off Price on Wednesday, but not too long ago, he was struggling to muscle the ball out of the park.

Napoli hit just one home run in June. He already has five in July, and manager John Farrell thinks he knows why.

"He's getting his front foot down earlier than in a stretch of time where he was a little bit late, causing his swing to be a little more long," Farrell said. "He just feels like he's getting ready on time sooner."

Napoli, who also doubled on Wednesday, has seven hits in his last four games.

Worth noting
• Lackey is 12-7 with a 4.39 ERA in 21 career starts against the Rays.

• Taylor Guerrieri, the Rays' No. 2 prospect, underwent successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Wednesday.

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