ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Alfredo Aceves wasn’t trying to be profound. It just worked out that way.
Recalled by the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday from Triple-A Pawtucket for his second spot start in three weeks, the veteran said he belongs in the big leagues but knows that has nothing to do whether he will remain.
“It’s not my decision,” he said. “Pitchers, this is the way we live. You play one day and the next you play in different places.”
More outings like Wednesday and he might stay put for a while. Aceves held the Tampa Bay Rays to one run on four hits and four walks in six innings as the American League East-leading Red Sox won 2-1 at Tropicana Field to take two games in the three-game series.
“Ace gave us a huge lift today,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Daniel Nava’s two-run home run in the third inning accounted for Boston’s offensive output as Tampa Bay outhit the Red Sox, 6-5.
Boston (41-26) dropped the fourth-place Rays (35-30) to five games off their pace.
Jacoby Ellsbury began the Boston two-out rally with a single up the middle off Chris Archer, extending his hit streak to 11 games. Nava jumped ahead in the count, 3-0, took a strike and fouled off five straight pitches before mashing a slider into the right-field bleachers for his ninth homer.
“I was trying to throw a backdoor slider,” said Archer, who hadn’t allowed a hit on a slider this season. “I was trying to throw it outside and it was a decent pitch, but it was a pitch he can hit.”
Nava singled home the go-ahead run in the 14th inning of a victory against the Rays on Monday.
Archer (1-2) left after four innings having allowed two earned runs on four hits with four walks and seven strikeouts in the shortest outing of his career. He threw 103 pitches, the last a strikeout of Nava with the bases loaded.
After pumping his fist in the air, he appeared to stare back at Nava as he left the field.
“I was pretty amped and I let it show,” Archer said. “When I do that, it’s not toward the other team. If I make a good pitch, I get excited for my team.”
Evan Longoria halved the deficit with a solo homer to center in the sixth, his team-leading 13th of the season.
Boston has won four consecutive series and has split or won seven straight.
Franklin Morales was originally scheduled to start on Wednesday because of Clay Buchholz’s stiff neck, but was thrust into a 14-inning game in relief on Monday, earning the win. Aceves took advantage of the opportunity yet again. He allowed one run on seven hits in six innings on May 27 to beat Philadelphia.
Aceves was in jeopardy only in the third, walking lead-off hitter Matt Joyce and allowing a single to Ben Zobrist. But he struck out Kelly Johnson and induced Longoria into an inning-ending double play.
“The third inning was the key, probably the best inning of the night he pitched for us,” Farrell said.
Tampa Bay was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
“Aceves, we can’t hit that guy,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I thought if we got to their bullpen, their bullpen was as tired as ours. But their bullpen responded like ours today.”
Koji Uehara entered to strike out Longoria with the tying run on second in the eighth, running off the field so excitedly afterward that he stumbled and nearly fell.
Andrew Bailey allowed a lead-off single to James Loney in the ninth and started Desmond Jennings with three straight balls, but retired the next three batters for his seventh save.
Pinch-runner Sam Fuld stole second base to move the tying run to second base, but Bailey ended the game with a strikeout of Jose Lobaton, who had homered against him on Monday.
NOTES: Defending American League Cy Young Award-winner David Price, on the disabled list since May 16 with a left triceps strain, is scheduled to throw his first simulated game on Thursday. … Red Sox manager John Farrell told the Boston Globe that LHP Jon Lester will start on Sunday in place of Clay Buchholz unless the right-hander shows “marked improvement” recovering from a stiff neck. Boston would need to make the decision by Thursday. … Farrell made a pre-game call of good luck to Bruins coach Claude Julien before the Stanley Cup Final began against Chicago. … Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hit streak to 11 games. … Two games after the teams engaged in a bench-clearing incident after Matt Joyce was struck by a John Lackey pitch, Rays starter Chris Archer fist-pumped, then stared down Daniel Nava walking off the mound after an inning-ending strikeout with the bases loaded in the fourth. … Tampa Bay is 2-7 against Boston this season, 33-23 against all others.