BOSTON (AP) — The next 10 days are going to be mighty tense for the Boston Red Sox.
At least they’re done with the Tampa Bay Rays — unless a tiebreaker is needed to decide the AL wild card.
“The good news is, if we can hold off Tampa, we don’t have to play them again,” Boston manager Terry Francona said after Sunday’s 8-5 loss. “They had their way with us.”
Tampa Bay, which trailed Boston by nine games on Sept. 3, closed within two games of the wild-card lead for the first time since June. The Red Sox have 10 games left: seven against last-place Baltimore and three at Yankee Stadium; Tampa plays seven against the AL East-leading Yankees and three versus Toronto.
“The Yankees have been playing good against everybody,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Even after getting swept at Tampa Bay and losing three of four to the Rays in Fenway Park, the Red Sox still hold the wild-card lead.
“We’re winning. We’ve got to go out and play better. That’s basically it,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “I’m real confident. We’ve got a great team and we’ve got to find a way to figure it out. We’ve got a two-game lead with 10 games to go. We’re not going to sit back and feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to win. I’ve already turned the page.”
Boston lost for 14th time in 19 games since starting Aug. 30 with a 1 1/2-game lead over New York atop the AL East.
“We need to control what we can control,” Francona said. “Saying that, I hope (the Rays) lose.”
Tim Wakefield (7-7) threw one wild pitch and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia muffed four of his knucklers for passed balls, miscues that contributed to three runs. The Rays beat Boston for the eighth time in their last nine meetings.
Wakefield allowed six runs — two earned — six hits, one walk and a hit batter in five innings while striking out five. The 45-year-old earned victory No. 200 in his previous outing, his only win in his last 10 starts.
Tampa Bay starter David Price took Mike Aviles’ liner off his right shoulder, just above the “Rays” on his uniform, in the third. The ball caromed to third baseman Evan Longoria, who threw out Aviles for a 1-5-3 putout.
Trainers looked at Price for several minutes behind the mound — at one point he pulled his shirt out so they could examine the bruise. Price stayed in to finish the third, and then pitched the fourth before leaving for what the team said was precautionary reasons.
Matt Joyce had three hits and three RBIs, Jake McGee (3-1) picked up the win with 2 2-3 innings of relief and Joel Peralta pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
Entering with a 6-2 lead, McGee retired his first eight batters before Marco Scutaro’s single chased him with two outs in the seventh.
Jacoby Ellsbury singled, Aviles hit a three-run homer before Cesar Ramos struck out Adrian Gonzalez.
By then, it was too late.
Tampa Bay went ahead 3-0 in the second after Casey Kotchman led off by reaching on a passed ball on a third strike. He took second on another passed ball and scored on Johnny Damon’s double. Joyce and Desmond Jennings singled in runs later in the inning.
In the fourth, Joyce doubled, took third on a passed ball and scored on Sean Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly, but Darnell McDonald’s two-run double cut the gap to 4-2 in the bottom half.
Jennings singled leading off the fifth, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball.
Andrew Miller added a wild pitch in the seventh that helped another run score. Aviles also had two throwing errors at third base, contributing to one more Rays’ run.
Ray manager Joe Maddon knows that in coming days, many Red Sox fans will likely be rooting for the rival Yankees — not only the ones that were in Fenway Park on Sunday.
“It’s not just 37,000, it’s 37 in the ballpark and millions more in the nation,” he said.
NOTES: Wakefield pitched his 3,000th inning as a member of the Red Sox — the first player in franchise history to reach the milestone. Only the Cincinnati franchise had been around as long as Boston without having one pitcher throw 3,000 innings. … The Rays finished 7-2 in Fenway Park and 12-6 against Boston this season. … The Red Sox have a day-night doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday, with Kyle Weiland (0-2) starting the opener for Boston and John Lackey (12-12) pitching the night game. … Red Sox INF Kevin Youkilis missed his third straight game because of a sports hernia. “He needs some time down, whether it’s days or weeks, we don’t know,” Francona said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)