ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay’s sputtering offense found a way to beat the Boston Red Sox and make David Price the first 12-game winner in the American League.
The Rays scored twice in the seventh inning without getting a hit to rally past their AL East rivals for a 5-3 victory that was especially satisfying because the team showed some of the resourcefulness that manager Joe Maddon says it’ll take for the team to get back on track.
“We’re not going to bludgeon people,” Maddon said after Price outpitched Clay Buchholz and the Rays used three walks, a hit batter, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly to overtake the stumbling Red Sox, who’ve dropped seven of their last nine games.
“We have been talking about it. We have to work better at-bats,” Maddon added. “It’s about moving the baseball. It’s about accepting your walks. It’s more than just about getting hits. Sometimes it’s about not making an out.”
The Rays hit a franchise-worst .232 before the All-Star break. They scored more than four runs for only the fourth time in the past 16 games.
“We did what we do. We get on base. We draw walks. We stand in there whenever the ball’s coming at them and take our bases. We come up with the big hits when we need to,” Price said.
“Sometimes a walk is just as good as a hit,” the pitcher added. “It might even better sometimes because it’s more pitches off that pitcher.”
Price (12-4) allowed three runs and six hits in 7 1-3 innings. The All-Star left-hander walked two and struck out eight to move ahead of Matt Harrison of the Texas Rangers for the AL wins lead.
Buchholz (8-3) pitched well in his first start in more than three weeks, taking a 3-2 lead into the seventh before walking the first batter of inning and hitting the next. Hideki Matsui was walked intentionally to load the bases with one out, and the Rays pulled even when pinch-hitter Jose Lobaton drew a walk from Matt Albers.
Elliot Johnson’s sacrifice fly gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 lead, and B.J. Upton’s solo homer off Andrew Miller provided a two-run cushion in the eighth.
Joel Peralta got the final two outs of the eighth for the Rays. All-Star Fernando Rodney worked the ninth for his 26th save in 27 opportunities.
“Kind of frustrating all the way around,” Texas manager Bobby Valentine said. “We had a lead. Three walks and a hit batter, and a sac fly. It kind of hurts.”
Will Middlebrooks hit a two-run homer off Price in the fourth. The Tampa Bay starter’s errant pickoff throw to third base allowed the Red Sox to take a 3-2 lead in the sixth.
Buchholz was activated from the disabled list before the game and made his first start since working six innings in a 7-5 win over Miami on June 19. He was placed on the DL with what the Red Sox described as a stomach illness, and the team later announced that he had esophagitis, which led to the erosion of his esophagus and internal bleeding.
Price pitched one scoreless inning in last Tuesday’s All-Star game in Kansas City, throwing seven pitches. He limited Boston to Mike Aviles’ second-inning single until David Ortiz singled with one out and scored ahead of Middlebrooks when the third baseman hit an 0-2, two-out pitch over the left-centerfield wall for his 11th homer of the season.
The Red Sox loaded the bases on a walk and two singles in the fifth, but didn’t score when Pedro Ciriaco flied to right fielder Ben Zobrist, who made a perfect throw to the plate to catch Kelly Shoppach trying to score from third base.
Boston snapped a 2-2 tie in the sixth without getting a hit. Cody Ross drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a passed ball and took third on Middlebrooks’ grounder to second. Ross trotted home for a 3-2 lead when Price threw high over third baseman Jeff Keppinger’s head for an error on the attempted pickoff.
Buchholz allowed just three hits but wound up yielding four runs in 6 1-3 innings. He walked one and struck out eight.
“Buchholz was really good,” Valentine said. “Rally good until right at the end there.”
NOTES: To make room on the roster for Buchholz, the Red Sox optioned INF Mauro Gomez to Triple-A Pawtucket. … Rays injured OF Matt Joyce (left oblique strain) will play for Class A Charlotte on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before being re-evaluated. Barring a setback, he may be ready to rejoin the Rays on Wednesday or Thursday against Cleveland. … Jennings, Tampa Bay’s usual leadoff hitter, batted seventh after hitting eighth on Friday night. Manager Joe Maddon reiterated that Jennings remains the team’s leadoff man. He’s temporarily dropped him in the order to remove some of the pressure on the left fielder and give him an opportunity to “work on certain things that are going to get him back to being the premier leadoff hitter that he is.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.