Tampa Bay Rays' John Jaso stars at plate and behind it.

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon said he made his mind up a couple of days ago that C John Jaso would start Friday, even if C Jose Lobaton believed his left knee was good enough to go.

Jaso made Maddon's move pay off, playing a huge role in the Rays' 7-2 victory over the Red Sox. He hit a three-run homer in the second inning to start the scoring, threw out 2B Dustin Pedroia on a momentum-swinging strikeout, then knocked RHP John Lackey out of the game after hitting him in the left calf on a line drive in the third.

Jaso added a double and a run scored in the sixth.

"He's not going to be able to sleep (Friday)," Maddon quipped.

Jaso, who tied his season high with three RBIs, said his homer came on a 3 and 1 fastball. Maddon said his liner off Lackey may have been the hardest ball he hit all game. "That ball I definitely squared up, right off the barrel," Jaso said. "I feel (Lackey's) pain."

Jaso got Pedroia at second in the second on a one-hop throw, which included a great pick by SS Reid Brignac. It came after a Wade Davis strikeout of David Ortiz.

STEPPING UP: RHP Jeremy Hellickson will have a tough time topping his last outing, a complete-game victory Sunday. But Hellickson enters tonight's start against the Red Sox feeling good about one of his key improvements this season. The rookie has been throwing more quality strikes early in the count. "I think I'm pretty efficient once I get ahead of guys," he said, "and I've been locating my fastball a little better as the year wore on."

MEDICAL MATTERS: Maddon said Lobaton, who tweaked his left knee Tuesday, was available to play, and the catcher said he hoped to be in the lineup tonight. Lobaton said that after talking with the training staff, they decided to have him catch a bullpen session Friday to further test the knee. "I want to play at 100 percent, not 90 percent," Lobaton said. "If they say I can play, I can play."

NO WORRIES: OF Sam Fuld initially took leftfield as the Rays came out for the ninth, with OF Desmond Jennings in center, because Maddon thought CF B.J. Upton had cramped up. But after Upton insisted he was fine, he came out of the dugout and took his spot in center.

LINING UP: Maddon said he batted Upton second because he thought he looked comfortable there earlier in the week while DH Johnny Damon was out of the lineup. Damon batted fifth to put him in more RBI situations.

HOT CORNER: The Rays might not see Red Sox INF Kevin Youkilis this series. Youkilis returned to Boston on Friday to get an MRI exam on his right hip. Manager Terry Francona said Youkilis has bursitis and was given an injection. If Youkilis feels good today, he could fly here, but if not, he will wait for the team to return from its trip. Said Francona: "We need him."

MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham lost 5-2 to Indians affiliate Columbus and was swept out of the best-of-five International League playoffs. Maddon said one or two players will be called up right away and maybe a few more (and maybe then top prospect LHP Matt Moore) after that. … Class A Bowling Green fell 5-1 to Fort Wayne (Padres) and was swept from the best-of-three Midwest League playoffs.

HAVING A BALL: The Rays wives and All Children's Hospital have partnered for tonight's inaugural Mystery Ball and Silent Auction, with each $30 donation allowing a donor to choose one mystery ball, which is autographed by a current major-leaguer or coach. A total of 600 balls will be sold at Gates 1 and 5. The silent auction will be in the Whitney Bank Club through the end of the seventh inning.

miscellany: Former Red Sox OF Bernie Carbo will sign autographs from 5:15 to 7 tonight at the Ted Williams Museum near the team shop ($10 per item). Tampa author Mark Stang will be signing his Red Sox Review.

Tampa Bay Rays' John Jaso stars at plate and behind it. 09/09/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 10, 2011 1:28am]

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