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Warm Fenway welcome awaits Lester

Lester can expect warm greeting from Fenway fans

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After making three starts on the road, Jon Lester will finally get to hear just how much the Fenway faithful appreciate his return to the Majors as the Red Sox host the Rays in the middle game of the three-game series.

Lester, who was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in his back last year, made his return on July 23 at Cleveland. He has since made two more starts, both on the road against the Devil Rays and Angels, posting a 1-0 record with a 6.43 ERA.

"[I'm] just trying to make another start," Lester said of his assignment. "I'm sure there will be some emotions going through my mind a little bit."

The left-hander lasted just 3 1/3 innings last Wednesday in Anaheim, allowing five runs on eight hits while walking three.

"Throwing strikes, really," he said of his main objective. "For some reason, the past couple of starts, I've just been getting away from throwing strike one, and it's really hurt me. If I get back to doing that, like I did in the Cleveland and Tampa Bay starts ... Except for one pitch in the Tampa Bay start, I thought I threw the ball well.

"Hopefully, I'll get back to that, and the rest will take care of itself."

If Lester hopes that his fortunes will be much different from his last outing, he can rest assured the surrounding environment will be. It will be his first start at Fenway since Aug. 18, 2006, against the Yankees.

"I'm sure it'll be good," he said. "It probably won't sink in until [Tuesday] when I get on the mound and see the Fenway background again.

"Any start, whether it's the seventh game of the World Series or if it's Opening Day, you try not to get too amped up. If you do, you lose control of your mind and your body and the ball starts going everywhere. I have a hard enough time controlling the ball as it is.

"It's been great," he added of the supportive fans, "from the mail to the bracelets to the support in Spring Training and coming back. It's been great. I couldn't ask for more."

With Monday's 3-0 victory, Boston has taken six of the first seven meetings with Tampa Bay, with 10 still remaining after Tuesday. Monday's win also allowed the Red Sox to maintain their four-game lead on the Yankees in the American League East.

Lester and the Red Sox will be opposed by another left-hander, Scott Kazmir, who has allowed just one run in his last 19 innings.

Pitching matchup
TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (9-7, 3.58 ERA)
Kazmir continued his friendly rivalry with teammate James Shields after he hurled six shutout innings in an 8-1 win against the Tigers. Shields did his part (seven innings and one run) in his start against the Tigers, and Kazmir was equal to the task, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. Kazmir is 5-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 13 career starts against the Red Sox.

BOS: LHP Jon Lester (1-0, 6.43 ERA)
After a strong performance his first time out, Lester has gotten progressively worse, giving up four runs in 6 2/3 innings, then four runs in five innings and finally five runs in 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday against the Angels. In that last outing, he gave up eight hits and walked three, only escaping a loss when the Red Sox were able to tie the game after he left. Lester faced Tampa Bay in his second outing, also a no-decision.

Player to watch
Julio Lugo has hit safely in five straight games, with at least two hits in his last four. He is 10-for-20 with three doubles, six RBIs and three runs over the five-game stretch. He has at least one hit in 10 of his last 11 games, batting .378 (17-for-45) in that span.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WRKO 680, WROL (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 1-8, 6.35) at Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 13-8, 3.59), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Angels (John Lackey, 15-6, 3.07) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 15-5, 3.24), 1:05 p.m. ET

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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