ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays are slipping out of playoff contention and tempers are getting a little short.
Jacoby Ellsbury homered and drove in three runs, Aaron Cook stopped his five-game losing streak and the Boston Red Sox beat the sliding Rays 5-2 on Monday night.
Tampa Bay, coming off a 1-5 road trip to Baltimore and New York, fell 5½ games behind the AL East-leading Yankees. The Rays also dropped five games back of the Orioles, who won 10-4 in Seattle, for the second AL wild-card spot.
“We’re going to have to find a way to bounce out of it,” said Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton, who had three of the team’s six hits.
The Rays have scored just 21 runs over the last seven games.
“This has been ongoing. … This is a seasonal misadventure,” manager Joe Maddon said of his club’s struggling offense. “We’ve been able to remain solvent because our pitching has been so good.”
Tampa Bay leads the AL with a 3.27 ERA. The last five AL teams to finish a season with an ERA as low as the Rays’ current figure all advanced to the World Series.
Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb and catcher Jose Molina got into a heated discussion in the dugout after the top of the sixth when Boston took a 2-1 advantage. There was a wild pitch and passed ball during the inning.
“We’re both really into that game, and we needed to win that game,” Cobb said. “I honestly don’t really know what the argument was about, still. We’ll work things out. We’ll talk about it tomorrow, or whatever, and leave it behind us.”
Molina declined to comment as he was leaving the clubhouse.
“I’m not unhappy,” Maddon said. “That’s overblown sometimes. That can actually be a good thing. It’s fine right now. We discussed everything. It’s all good.”
Ellsbury hit a two-run homer in the sixth and added an RBI single during a three-run seventh for the Red Sox, who were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday. Cook (4-10) allowed one run and five hits over six innings in his first win since Aug. 6.
Rays slugger Evan Longoria was out of the starting lineup because of what Maddon called heavy legs. Maddon expects the third baseman, who missed 85 games earlier this season due to a partially torn left hamstring, to be back in the lineup Tuesday.
Cobb (9-9) allowed one baserunner — a two-out walk in the second to Jarrod Saltalamacchia — through five innings. The right-hander made a nice defensive play to end the second, grabbing a hard grounder by Ryan Lavarnway and throwing the catcher out at first.
Jose Iglesias was hit by Cobb’s pitch with one out in the sixth and scored on Boston’s first hit of the game, a two-out, two-run homer by Ellsbury that put the Red Sox ahead 2-1.
“For five innings it looked like we didn’t have any gas in our tank, and then Iggy ignited us a little bit,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “And Ells took a lot of time in between pitches and hit a 3-1 pitch, and he gave us the lead.”
Cobb was pulled after James Loney singled and Saltalamacchia walked to start the seventh. Boston loaded the bases with no outs when Lavarnway reached against Burke Badenhop after shortstop Ben Zobrist misplayed a grounder for an error.
After pinch-hitter Mauro Gomez hit a two-run single off J.P. Howell, Ellsbury made it 5-1 with a run-scoring single against the Tampa Bay left-hander.
“We played really well tonight, and it’s nice to shake hands after a game,” Cook said.
Boston is 14-30 since Aug. 1.
Cobb, who had won five consecutive decisions, gave up four runs and two hits in six-plus innings.
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Luke Scott scored from third on Ryan Roberts’ sacrifice bunt. Zobrist had an RBI grounder in the ninth.
NOTES: The announced attendance was just 11,722. … Ellsbury has seven RBIs over his last nine games. … Tampa Bay OF Sam Fuld, who left Sunday’s game with a strained right hamstring, is expected to be out several more days.