ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Clay Buchholz picked up right where he left off, pitching five scoreless innings and leading the Boston Red Sox to a 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
Making his first start since June 8 after spending three months on the disabled list with a neck strain, Buchholz struck out six and scattered three hits against Tampa Bay, extending Boston’s American League East lead to 8 1/2 games.
The Rays lost for the 12th time in their last 16 games but, with the Orioles and Indians also losing Tuesday night, maintained a 1 1/2-game lead for the second American League wild card spot.
Tampa Bay got a strong outing from starter David Price, who struck out nine over eight innings on 127 pitches, a career high and the most by a Rays pitcher since Victor Zambrano threw 128 on July 8, 2004.
On his 127th and final pitch, Price blew a 94 mph fastball past shortstop Stephen Drew.
But once again, the Rays couldn’t muster any offense to support their left-handed ace.
Since beginning this 4-12 skid on Aug. 25, Tampa Bay has scored only 41 runs (2.56 per game).
Buchholz was largely responsible for silencing the Rays’ bats, lowering his ERA to 1.61 as he improved to a perfect 10-0 over 13 starts this season.
The Red Sox bullpen did its job when Buchholz left after five innings and 74 pitches. Lefty reliever Craig Breslow tossed two hitless innings, righty Junichi Tazawa recorded two outs in the eighth and closer Koji Uehara notched a four-out save, his 19th save, to secure Boston’s 88th victory.
Price carried a perfect game into the fifth but quickly unraveled. Mike Napoli led off the inning with a double to the center-field wall that Desmond Jennings couldn’t corral. Napoli came around to score on Jonny Gomes’ single up the middle, putting the Red Sox on the board first.
Gomes advanced to second on Jennings’ weak throw home, and Boston used two sacrifices to put up another run. Daniel Nava dropped a sacrifice bunt to get Gomes to third, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia crushed a sacrifice fly to deep center field, easily scoring Gomes and giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.
NOTES: The Red Sox activated Buchholz from the 60-day disabled list before the game. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Boston designated RHP Jose De La Torre for assignment. De La Torre, 27, logged a 6.35 ERA in seven relief appearances for the Red Sox this year. … Rays reliever Jesse Crain, acquired before the July 31 trade deadline, threw 36 pitches Tuesday afternoon, his second side session as he recovers from a right shoulder strain. The Rays will determine Crain’s next step Wednesday, but he hopes to pitch this season and said he’s “getting close.” … MLB announced its schedule for the 2014 season Tuesday. The Red Sox will open their 114th season on March 31 at Baltimore, their fourth straight season opening on the road, with their home opener set for April 4 against the Brewers. The Rays will open their season against the Blue Jays on March 31 at Tropicana Field.
Yankees 7, Orioles 5: Alfonso Soriano belted a pair of homers, including a tiebreaking two-run shot in the eighth inning, as visiting New York evened the series at one game apiece.
Mark Reynolds also homered and added a double during the four-run eighth as the Yankees pulled within two games of Tampa Bay for the second wild card in the American League and moved one-half game behind Baltimore. Adam Warren (2-2) pitched a scoreless seventh and Shawn Kelley gave up a run in the eighth before Mariano Rivera got the final four outs for his 42nd save of the season and 650th of his career.
Chris Davis swatted his major league-leading 49th homer for the Orioles, who blew a 4-1 lead and had their six-game home winning streak against the Yankees snapped. Kevin Gausman (2-5) worked a scoreless seventh but surrendered a double to Alex Rodriguez and a tying RBI single to Robinson Cano before Soriano went deep for a 6-4 edge.
Baltimore answered Rodriguez’s third-inning RBI double with a four-run fifth, parlaying three singles, an error and Nick Markakis’ sacrifice fly into a 2-1 lead before Davis hammered a hanging curveball from Ivan Nova over the wall in center. The Yankees answered in the sixth with solo shots by Soriano and Reynolds before forging ahead in the eighth.
Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez struck out six and allowed three runs over six innings while Yankees starter Ivan Nova also went six innings, giving up four runs on six hits.