ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — No need for walk-off dramatics this time. The Tampa Bay Rays got it done a little earlier on Sunday at Tropicana Field.
After sinking the Boston Red Sox into the American League East cellar with wins in the bottom of the ninth and 15th innings this weekend, the Rays swept their first set of the season behind a five-run seventh in an 8-5 victory.
In the process they might have rekindled the simmering animosity that defined their dealings with Boston since become a contender in 2008.
“Boston, they’re world champs, man,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That says a lot right there. I know they’ve been struggling a bit but they do have a lot of veterans on that team.”
Sean Rodriguez began the decisive barrage with a three-run homer to left field off left-hander Craig Breslow, giving Tampa Bay a 6-3 lead in the seventh inning. It was his sixth of the season and first of his career as a pinch-hitter. Rodriguez had beaten the Oakland A’s in the 12th inning with a three-run homer on Thursday.
Tampa Bay continued to pummel Breslow, getting subsequent singles from right fielder Wil Myers and first baseman James Loney before shortstop Yunel Escobar’s two-out, two-run double that upped the lead to 8-3.
Boston went down again, but this time with a fight. Sort of.
Escobar taking third base without a throw apparently stirred a long-standing tension between the teams and the Red Sox’s agitation of heading toward a 10th consecutive loss. With catcher Jose Molina at the plate, Escobar removed his helmet and began gesturing and yelling toward the Red Sox dugout, prompting former Ray Jonny Gomes to rush in from left field and confront him physically.
“He’s basically (yelling at) the whole dugout,” said Gomes, whose pinch-hit two run homer had tied the game the previous inning. “I got a problem with that. I figured a hands-on approach might be a little more appropriate.”
Both benches and bullpens cleared, with Gomes — who had hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the top of the seventh to tie the game — Escobar and Rodriguez ejected by the time the punchless scrum was cleared.
“There’s no secret they like to beat us and we like to beat them,” Ross said of a series that has included multiple bench-clearing incidents the last several years. “There’s some frustration on our end. After Jonny (hit the homer) we thought we got some life.
“They kicked our butt and we’re tired of getting our butt kicked.”
Escobar didn’t want to discuss the scrum, saying “as far as I am concerned, it’s over.”
Breslow (2-1) took the loss after allowing five runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning. Peralta (2-3) earned the win despite allowing two runs on three hits in one inning.
Tampa Bay improved to 23-28 while Boston (20-29) became the first defending World Series champion to lose 10 straight since the 1998 Miami Marlins. Boston lost 10 straight for the first time since 1994 and have dropped five consecutively to the Rays.
Boston had tied the game at 3 in the seventh on a booming two-run pinch-hit homer by Gomes, who is now 6-for-13 with four homers lifetime against reliever Joel Peralta.
Boston took a 1-0 lead in the third inning against Rays starter Jake Odorizzi on a sacrifice flyout by Brock Holt.
Third baseman Evan Longoria (3-for-5) tied the game at 1 by stroking the first pitch of the fifth inning into the right-field stands against Boston starter Brandon Workman. The homer was Longoria’s fifth of the season but first since May 6.
Tampa Bay kept pressure on Workman, as Myers worked a one-out walk and with two outs, outfielder Brandon Guyer (2-for-3) singled to right field. Infielder Logan Forsythe followed with a single to give the Rays their first lead on his fifth RBI of the season.
Earlier Sunday, the Red Sox placed first baseman Mike Napoli on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained finger on his left hand. The move is retroactive to Saturday.
To take Napoli’s spot on the 25-man roster, the club recalled Workman from Triple-A Pawtucket. Napoli was in and out of the Red Sox’s lineup last week with flu symptoms as well as hamstring, calf and finger pain.
He is batting .260 with five home runs and 22 RBIs.