For the second time in less than 24 hours, a Tampa Bay Rays ace didn't last much past the middle of the game. For the second time in less than 24 hours, a Boston Red Sox starter got lit up early. And for the second time in less than 24 hours, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Which is how the Tampa Bay Rays came to trail the Wild Card-leading Red Sox by only two games.
Sunday, the Tampa Bay ace was David Price. In the third inning, he was struck on the chest by a Mike Aviles line drive. The immediate outcomes seemed positive; the ball caromed to Evan Longoria, who threw Aviles out at first base, and Price remained in the game. But after an ineffective fourth inning, Price was removed from the game. This was the first time all season that he didn't pitch into the fifth inning.
The Boston starter was Tim Wakefield, coming off his (long-awaited) 200th win last week. Sunday, the second inning was tough for Wakefield. He started the frame by striking out Casey Kotchman, but the strikeout pitch eluded the catcher and Kotchman wound up on first base. Following a passed ball that moved Kotchman to second, Johnny Damon doubled home Kotchman, and Damon scored moments later on Matt Joyce's single up the middle. Joyce later stole second, and scored on Desmond Jennings' base hit.
Wakefield's elusive knuckleball proved problematic again in the fourth inning. With one out, Joyce doubled, advance to third on a passed ball, and scored the Rays' fourth run on Sean Rodriguez's sacrifice fly.
And the follies continued in the fifth, when Jennings scored on yet another passed ball and Longoria scored when Mike Aviles made a throwing error.
That would do it for Wakefield, who didn't come out for the fifth. In the seventh, the Rays picked up a couple of insurance runs off ex-starter Andrew Miller, thanks to Joyce's two-out, two-run single.
That insurance proved comforting when Aviles made the score 8-5 in the seventh inning with his three-run homer.
Ultimately, the Rays didn't need that insurance. Entering with two outs in the eighth and a runner on second base, new Tampa Bay closer Joel Peralta held the Red Sox scoreless from there and recorded his second save in less than 24 hours.
With their victory, the Rays closed to within two games of the Red Sox in the Wild Card standings.
Now's when things get really tough for Tampa Bay, though. This week, the Red Sox host the last-place Orioles while the Rays visit the first-place Yankees. Next weekend, the Rays host the Blue Jays while it's Boston's turn to visit the Bronx. And beginning next Monday, the Rays finish their schedule with three games at home against the Yankees while the Red Sox visit the Orioles.