ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox lead the majors in a bunch of offensive categories, including team batting average and runs scored, so they’re hardly fazed by falling behind early.
Even against Tampa Bay All-Star pitcher James Shields.
Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Reddick homered, and John Lackey settled down after a shaky first inning in which the Rays bolted to a 3-0 lead, enabling the AL East leaders to rally for a 9-5 victory on Saturday.
Lackey (7-8) struck out seven while allowing four runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings for the Red Sox, who retained a 1½-game lead over the New York Yankees and dropped third-place Tampa Bay a season-high six games off the pace in the division.
The Red Sox have won seven of their last eight and 11 of 13 since June 30.
“That first inning, Lack was making good pitches. They found a few holes and did some things,” Pedroia said. “I don’t know. We took a deep breath and we were able to comeback.”
Shields has been tough on the Red Sox at Tropicana Field, winning five of seven decisions against them in the domed stadium before Saturday. Last month, he limited baseball’s highest scoring team to five singles in a 4-0 victory — one of the right-hander’s three shutouts this season.
“We haven’t had much success on him in a while. Seemed like we were getting into hitter’s counts. Usually he’s getting ahead,” Pedroia said. “He’s so effective with his changeup, curveball and stuff. We did a good job just grinding it out. He still went deep into the game, so that’s a credit to him. We just found a way to get a couple big hits.”
Reddick’s two-run homer got Boston rolling after Casey Kotchman, Matt Joyce and B.J. Upton staked Shields (8-8) to a quick lead with RBI singles in the first inning. Ellsbury went deep for the second day in a row with a solo shot off Shields in the fourth.
Pedroia homered for the third consecutive game, extending his season-high hitting streak to 14 games when he connected off reliever Juan Cruz in the seventh.
David Ortiz had three RBIs for Boston, including a two-run double off Shields, who dropped his fourth straight decision . The Rays’ starter, who leads the majors with seven complete games, allowed six runs and six hits in six innings.
“I made a few bad pitches and they cost me,” Shields said. “Obviously I settled in the last three innings … but by then it was too late.”
Shields, coming off a 1-0 complete-game loss to the Yankees in which he allowed the lone run on an errant pickoff throw to third base, gave up four extra-base hits after yielding just five while holding opposing batters to a .178 average over his previous six starts. Ellsbury and Pedroia also homered off Tampa Bay’s other All-Star pitcher, David Price, during Boston’s 9-6 loss to the Rays on Friday night.
Lackey settled after a shaky first two innings, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the second when Kotchman grounded into an inning-ending double play and striking out five of eight batters he faced during the stretch of the game in which the Red Sox turned their three-run deficit into a 6-3 lead.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was encouraged by the way Lackey hung in after the poor start. While the right-hander has been inconsistent this season, he was coming off a nice performance in a combined shutout of Baltimore and has now won two straight decisions.
“The way the game started, the fact that he stayed out there, because those first two innings were long,” Francona said. “(There was) a lot to like. We would love for him to get hot. That would be one of the best things that ever happened to us.”
Joyce’s 13th homer, one pitch after the first-time All-Star fouled a ball off his right knee cap and crumpled to the ground in pain, trimmed Tampa Bay’s deficit to 6-4 in the fifth. Upton followed with a single before stealing second, however Lackey fanned Sam Fuld to avoid more damage.
The Rays threatened again in the sixth when Johnny Damon reached on an error and Lackey hit Ben Zobrist with a pitch with two outs, however Randy Williams came out of the bullpen and only needed one pitch to retire Kotchman on a grounder to second base.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth in a non-save situation for Boston, giving up a triple to Kotchman and Evan Longoria’s RBI single.
“It’s a huge one for us, especially after coming off a frustrating loss,” Reddick said. “Lackey picked us up real well after that first inning, and we started swinging the bat for him.”
NOTES: Ellsbury has four homers and nine RBIs during a 7-game hitting streak. … The Red Sox have hit a major league-leading 62 homers on the road this season, seven in the first two games of this series. … Upton, who leads the Rays with 15 homers, 52 RBIs and 22 stolen bases, has driven in 18 runs over his last 17 games. … Boston placed RHP Bobby Jenks on the 15-day disabled list because of a back injury. Manager Terry Francona said the reliever felt pain in his left mid-back area while warming up in the bullpen on Friday night. Williams, who worked one scoreless inning Saturday, was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Jenks. … Red Sox OF Carl Crawford (strained left hamstring) went 0 for 3 for Triple-A Pawtucket in his second rehab game. Out since June 18, Crawford is expected to join Boston in Baltimore on Monday.