BOSTON — The Tampa Bay Rays needed a strong pitching performance to avoid a four-game sweep by the hot-hitting Boston Red Sox.
They got it from James Shields.
Shields allowed four hits — all singles — in 8 1-3 innings, and the Rays beat Boston 1-0 Monday after being outscored 31-11 by the Red Sox in the previous three games.
“It was my job to stop the bleeding,” Shields said. “We had a rough three games and they were hot. They were swinging the bats pretty well.”
Boston had a chance to tie it in the ninth when Shields (2-0) left after walking Dustin Pedroia.
Fernando Rodney got his fourth save in four opportunities when he retired Adrian Gonzalez on a groundout that sent Pedroia to second, walked David Ortiz intentionally, then got Cody Ross on a called third strike. Ross slammed his helmet and argued with home-plate umpire Larry Vanover that the last two pitches should have been balls.
“To me it’s unacceptable,” Ross said. “If I’m up there striking out every at-bat, I’m going to get benched. They are not accountable.”
The only run came when Daniel Bard (0-2) walked Evan Longoria on four pitches with the bases loaded in the seventh.
The traditional Patriots’ Day home game began at 11:04 a.m. The holiday observed in Massachusetts and Maine marks Paul Revere’s ride and the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775.
“We absolutely needed something like that today. James did not disappoint,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I really liked the bounce back (at) 11 o’clock in the morning. After losing three games in a row here, a lot of teams would give up at that point. Our guys didn’t.”
The loss was Bobby Valentine’s first at Fenway Park as Boston’s manager. Fans booed when he went back to the dugout after lifting Bard for Justin Thomas following the run-scoring walk. Bard also walked the previous batter, Carlos Pena, on four pitches.
“It was the wrong decision, obviously,” Valentine said. “I wanted to let him know right there that I thought he could get himself out of a jam.”
The boos likely were prompted by an interview aired on WHDH-TV Sunday night in which Valentine questioned Kevin Youkilis’ commitment to the game. He apologized to his third baseman, a fan favorite, on Monday. Valentine had said he didn’t think Youkilis was “as physically or emotionally into the game.”
Maddon got his 500th win as a manager, all with Tampa Bay, as the Rays stopped a four-game losing streak.
“I just happen to be the steward of this group,” he said. “Better baseball players make you a lot smarter manager.”
Shields retired the first four batters before Ross’ broken-bat single off the pitcher’s glove. The next six Red Sox made outs before Gonzalez singled to left. He was erased on a double-play grounder in the fourth.
Shields walked Nick Punto with two outs in the fifth, allowed singles to Pedroia in the sixth and Ross in the seventh and walked Pedroia in the ninth.
Bard gave up three hits through six innings and set down the first two batters in the seventh. Then he lost his control.
Sean Rodriguez walked, Desmond Jennings singled and Pena walked, loading the bases. Pitching coach Bob McClure visited Bard and left him in the game. The move backfired as Bard walked Longoria with his 111th pitch. That’s when Valentine went to the mound to lift Bard and was booed on the walk back.
“Mac came out and said, ‘Do you want this guy?’ I wanted him,” said Bard, a converted reliever making his second major-league start. “In hindsight, probably I was tired.”
Thomas ended the threat by retiring Luke Scott on a fly to right.
NOTES: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attended the game. He chatted with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft … Youkilis sat out the game with a minor groin injury. … In 1968, the Red Sox began the tradition of playing a single game with a morning start on Patriots’ Day. The Rays are 3-0 in those games. … Ryan Sweeney was 0 for 3 after hitting safely in the other seven games he played for Boston.