vs. Red Sox
What's new: The first-place Red Sox (39-26) enter Tropicana Field as the hottest team in baseball, having won nine straight games, with their offense clicking on all cylinders. LF Carl Crawford will make his much-anticipated return and is hitting well, as are AL player of the week OF Jacoby Ellsbury (10-game hitting streak), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (AL-leading .341 average and 60 RBIs), Dustin Pedroia (seven-game hitting streak) and David Ortiz (15 homers). RHP Josh Beckett, who starts Wednesday, leads the AL with a 2.06 ERA.
Key stat: Boston scored 35 over the past three games against the Blue Jays, racking up 46 hits.
Connections: Crawford is an ex-Ray, as is RHP Dan Wheeler and third-base coach Tim Bogar. Rays DH Johnny Damon is a former Red Sox.
Series history: The Rays took two from the Red Sox in Boston on April 11-12 but still trail the overall series 90-135. Boston has been better at Tropicana Field, too, going 58-54.
Joe Smith, Times staff writer