TORONTO - The Tampa Bay Rays have a chance to overtake the first-place Boston Red Sox this week during a four-game series that begins tonight in Boston.
"Big series," DH Luke Scott said. "Two very good teams, AL East battle, pennant race, there's going to be some good games. A lot on the line. Two very good teams that do a lot of things well. It should be a fun series."
The Red Sox are the lone team in the division to give the Rays fits this season, winning nine of 12 games, including five of six at Fenway Park. Three of those Red Sox wins were walk-offs. The Red Sox lead the Rays in the AL East by 1 1/2 games after late Sunday's 11-inning 8-7 victory over the New York Yankees.
"I think they've pitched really well," manager Joe Maddon said. "We have not swung the bats well against them. Early in the season I thought we pitched well and did not hit, and then I think that kind of flipped around a little bit, but primarily I don't think we've really swung the bat against them."
The Rays are batting .235 against the Red Sox this season, including .144 with runners in scoring position.
The Rays have held the Red Sox to a .216 average, and that was before the rotation kicked into the gear it has been performing at since late June.
Maddon continued to downplay the importance of a late-July series.
"It is a prime opportunity, and again I hate to go there," Maddon said. "I know it's a four-game series there, but the moment we start thinking about it in those terms, it's going to get away from us. It's going to be about (tonight) and etc. I just like the way we're playing."
What about Escobar?
SS Yunel Escobar (right hamstring strain) could return to the lineup tonight.
"He's feeling really good," Maddon said. "I'm going to make that decision once we get out there (tonight). If he can convince me that he's perfect, that he's well and can do this, he probably will play. If there's any kind of trepidation whatsoever, he probably will take another day (off)."
1B James Loney returned Sunday from paternity leave. INF Ryan Roberts, called up when Loney left the team, was sent back to Triple-A Durham. The Rays waited until Escobar showed some improvement during pregame fielding and base running drills before making the roster move.
Myers sits with sore wrist
RF Wil Myers did not play Sunday after injuring his left wrist while sliding into second base Saturday.
Myers, who first injured the wrist while sliding against the Twins during the last homestand, said he expects to play tonight.
"I truly believe it's a day-to-day thing," Maddon said. "I actually believe he's going to play (tonight). He went out and took some swings and just felt a little bit sore in the finish."
Scott solves Dickey
Scott extended his career-long hitting streak to 13 games with his sixth-inning homer. That was his first career hit against RHP R.A. Dickey and came at the end of the nine-pitch at-bat that began with him down 0-2 in the count.
Scott said Maddon talked to him in the dugout before the at-bat, telling him to take a "gangster hack" and hit one into the fifth deck at Rogers Centre.
Scott said he hit a knuckleball and it landed in the first deck.
"That's what he throws. That's his best pitch," Scott said. "He does me a favor if he throws me a fastball. But his knuckleball is a great pitch. It's really tough to square up. . Very, very satisfying. Very grateful. He's really, really tough, for me personally."
RHP Chris Archer improved to 5-3 with his fourth straight win and did so by working inside to Blue Jays hitters.
No out was bigger for Archer than getting Jose Bautista to ground into a double play after he walked Jose Reyes to start the seventh inning.
"Great hitter, great at-bat," Archer said. "He laid off a couple of good pitches down in the dirt. I executed a pitch, Kelly (Johnson) was there, turned it himself, one of the better moments in the game for me."
Johnson, who had five hits in the series, followed Scott's homer with his 15th homer of the year. Johnson's 15th homer last season came in his 127th game. Sunday was his 79th game of the year. . Scott is batting .383 with four home runs during his 13-game hitting streak. . 3B Evan Longoria hit his 20th home run, making him the first player in team history with five 20-home run seasons. . Loney on the birth of his son, Jordan James: "It's a feeling like no other."