Heading into the series-opening battle, the Sox were 1-5 with three straight losses at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg this season. Lester, however, was able to give the wild card-leading Sox the win, thanks to six strong innings where he allowed just two runs and seven hits while striking out nine.
The offense was sparked by a two-run homer from J.D. Drew in the third and solo blasts from both Jason Bay in the fifth and Kevin Youkilis in the eighth. Mike Lowell, Victor Martinez and Jacoby Ellsbury each smacked a pair of hits in the win.
Reliever Billy Wagner pitched his fourth straight shutout inning of the season — including his second with Boston — as he struck out two batters and allowed no hits and no walks in the seventh frame. Closer Jonathan Papelbon relieved Hideki Okajima with the bases juiced and no outs in the eighth before shutting out the Rays over two innings en route to the six-out save — the club's first since September of 2006.
Red Sox 8, Rays 4
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.
September 1, 2009
Headliner: After the Rays took an early first-inning lead, Red Sox starter Jon Lester settled down and cruised to his 11th win of the season. The southpaw went six innings and allowed just two runs while striking out nine. Lester is now 5-2 in his career against the Rays and has won six of his last seven decisions.
Dirt dog: After a Carlos Pena homer in the bottom of the fourth inning, center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury robbed Pat Burrell of extra bases when he dove at a line-shot in the left-center gap. Then, with one down and the bases loaded in the eighth, Ellsbury robbed Jason Bartlett of at least one RBI with a sliding shoestring catch for the second out of the inning. The leadoff hitter also smacked an RBI triple in the ninth and scored a run on a daring tag-up play from third base on a shallow pop out to foul territory down the right field line in the fourth.
Better luck next time: In his first start in over two months, Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine went just four innings while giving up five runs (three earned) on eight hits. The righty struck out two, walked four and coughed up a pair of homers in the loss.
Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima came in with a five run lead in the eighth but allowed two runs on four hits and a walk without registering an out before getting replaced by Papelbon. Mark that as Oki's second straight bad outing — the lefty allowed a run on two hits before getting yanked without getting an out in Saturday night's win over Toronto.
Key moment: After the Rays’ Carlos Pena spanked a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to 4-2, left-fielder Jason Bay answered with a homer of his own. Bay’s 30th blast gave Boston a 5-2 lead and turned out to be the eventual game-winning run after the Rays stormed back with two runs in the eighth inning.
On deck: Josh Beckett looks to make it five straight wins while snapping a personal skid when he takes the mound against Matt Garza and the Rays in Game 2 of the three-game set at the Trop.
Beckett has looked very weak in his last three starts, going 0-1 and allowing 20 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings. The Sox ace has allowed 10 homers in that span, including a career-high five on Aug. 23 against the Yankees. Beckett will be looking for his 15th win of the season and seventh win in 14 career starts against the AL East foes.
Garza hopes to continue his personal success against the BoSox; the righty heads into the contest with a 5-1 career record and a 2.93 ERA against Boston. Garza, who hasn’t won since July 24, stands just 7-9 on the year and is winless in his last six starts.
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