The Tampa Bay Rays kept the Boston Red Sox within arms-reach in the wildcard standings, opening a pivotal four-game series at Fenway Park with a 9-2 win. Tampa Bay moved to within three games of Boston in the Wild Card standings, and will draw even with a series sweep.
B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman provided all the offense the Rays needed, driving in three runs apiece as Tampa Bay scored in bunches on Thursday. Upton opened the scoring in the fourth with an RBI single, driving in John Jaso. Longoria followed with a three-run home run, plating Upton and Desmond Jennings.
The Rays led 4-1 in the sixth when Kotchman lifted a two-run home run to right-center, scoring Johnny Damon and padding the advantage. In the seventh, with the Rays holding a comfortable 6-1 lead, Upton added a two-run home run, and the rout was on. Kotchman added an RBI single later in the inning.
The Red Sox scored once in the ninth, on a Darnell McDonald single, before Alex Torres slammed the door, giving the Rays the 9-2 win.
Jeremy Hellickson was solid for 5-2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out four to earn the win. Kyle Weiland was tagged with the loss after lasting just three innings and giving up four runs on three hits while striking out two and walking one.
The Rays and Red Sox get back at it on Friday at 7:10 Eastern in the second game of the series. For the Rays, the next three games represent the best opportunity to reel in the Red Sox in the standings. Going forward, Tampa Bay has eight games against the New York Yankees and three against the Toronto Blue Jays to close out the year.