ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Boston Red Sox are happy with their post All-Star game start.
Josh Beckett overcame early struggles to pitch six effective innings, Will Middlebrooks drove in a pair during a tiebreaking three-run fifth, and the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3 on Sunday.
Boston took two of three from the Rays after dropping six of seven before the All-Star break.
“We’ve got to win series now,” Beckett said of the Red Sox, who are 45-44.
Beckett (5-7) allowed three runs — all in the first — and eight hits. The right-hander, 5-0 over his past eight games against Tampa Bay, struck out seven and walked two in stopping a personal six-start winless streak.
“He’s battling this flu a little, and I think he just had to get his feet on the ground a little,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “But did one heck of a job, putting those goose eggs up. He’s a great competitor. He wasn’t going to let that game get away him.”
Boston went ahead 6-3 during the fifth when Daniel Nava homered and Middlebrooks had a two-run single off James Shields (8-6), who has allowed double-digits hits in four consecutive starts.
“We need to get some momentum going in this second half,” Middlebrooks said.
Boston closer Alfredo Aceves, in a non-save situation, loaded the bases on three walks in the ninth, but retired Hideki Matsui on a high fly to right to end it.
Shields lasted just five innings, giving up six runs and 11 hits. He is 3-6 over his past 12 games.
“I’m just not making my pitches,” Shields said. “That’s all. I’ve got to do a better job of making my pitches. Of course it’s frustrating. I’m not doing my job right now. The bottom line is I’ve got to get better.”
Cody Ross made it 7-3 on a sixth-inning sacrifice fly.
“I like the way we’re coming together,” Valentine said.
Adrian Gonzalez put the Red Sox up 1-0 on a first-inning RBI single. Mike Aviles’ two-run homer tied it at 3 in the second.
Ben Zobrist had a run-scoring infield single that went off Beckett’s glove, and Desmond Jennings hit a two-run single during the bottom of the first.
The Red Sox return home Monday night for a four-game series against Kevin Youkilis and the Chicago White Sox. Youkilis was traded from Boston to the White Sox last month.
Valentine questioned Youkilis’ commitment to the game during a television interview early in the season and later apologized to him a day later.
“I think the comment that I made early, he made a big issue out of and I don’t think he wanted to get over it,” Valentine said.
Notes: After the game, Valentine said that LF Carl Crawford (left wrist) will rejoin the team on Monday. He had been rehabbing this weekend at Triple-A Pawtucket. … Boston DH David Ortiz walked in his ninth consecutive game. The DH also has a 10-game hitting streak. … Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria, out since May 1 with a partially torn left hamstring, took grounders. … Boston OF Ryan Sweeney (left hamstring) didn’t play for the second straight game, but could return soon. … Boston placed RHP Scott Atchison on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain and recalled pitcher RHP Junichi Tazawa from Triple-A Pawtucket.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.