BOSTON — The buses were parked outside, ready to help send the Boston Red Sox on another West Coast trip, this one starting the September stretch run in the battle for the American League East.
This was no time to lose a game to a last-place team.
“Given where things are shaping up, a series win is a big one,” Boston manager John Farrell said after his team squandered a two-run lead in the top of the eighth but rallied for two in the bottom of the inning to post an 8-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday in the rubber game of a three-game series.
“We know where the schedule lies. We embrace it,” Farrell said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Wednesday’s win closed a 3-3 homestand and moved the Red Sox to within a game and half of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays, who were in Baltimore Wednesday night.
Mired in an 0-for-20 slump, Aaron Hill lined a tie-breaking RBI single and Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a run-scoring double. All this after the Rays had tied the game on a two-out, bases-loaded single by Logan Forsythe off Junichi Tazawa in the top of the inning.
Hanley Ramirez, who hit a grand slam to wipe out a 4-1 deficit in the fifth inning, walked against Erasmo Ramirez (7-10) and took second on a sacrifice by Sandy Leon. Brock Holt stroked a pinch-hit single and Hill came through to right field.
Bradley’s homer, his 22nd, made it 6-4, but the Rays tied it when Farrell, who wasn’t going to send Kimbrel out for a four-out save because he had thrown 22 pitches Tuesday night, used Tazawa, who actually wound up with the win.
Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth for his 24th save.
The Red Sox, playing for the 23rd straight day before heading out for the second West Coast trip since July 27, survived a shaky start by Steven Wright, who lasted four innings in his second outing since returning from a shoulder injury.
Ramirez, who also homered Tuesday night, hit his 19th, off starter Drew Smyly, and pushed his RBI total to 84 to continue his hot second half. He is 23-for-63 (.365) with five homers and 22 RBIs in his last 17 games. It was his seventh career grand slam, second with Boston. After the game, his manager praised the eighth-inning walk.
Xander Bogaerts also homered, his 17th of the season. Dustin Pedroia, also sizzling with the bat, had three more hits and is 19-for-33 during an eight-game hitting streak. He also has 18 hits in his last 24 at-bats at Fenway Park.
Forsythe matched his career high with his 17th homer, and Logan Morrison (No. 11) also went deep for the Rays.
Wright yielded four runs. In two starts since his return, he has permitted nine earned runs on 14 hits, including four homers, in 10 innings.
Smyly had been 4-0 with a 2.82 ERA in his last seven starts coming in, but gave up five runs in five innings.
The Rays lost a run in the fourth inning when Tim Beckham (two hits) failed to cross home plate before Kevin Kiermaier (three hits) was called out at second base.
Manager Kevin Cash clearly wasn’t pleased with what happened on the bases – and Beckham was optioned to Triple-A.
Kiermaier took the rap for the non-hustling Beckham, saying, “Just a really dumb thing on my part and it was on my mind the whole game. I really feel like I affected the team right there.”
As far as the game, Cash said, “Difficult loss. We get out to an early lead, have some real good at-bats against a good pitcher that’s having a good year.
“A walk here and couple of hits, then the big home run by Hanley really killed us.”
NOTES: There was nothing official, but it appeared the Red Sox were going to recall speedy super prospect 2B Yoan Moncada when the rosters expand — in time for Friday night’s opener of a nine-game road trip in Oakland. “We’ve talked about Yoan, and not just as a pinch runner,” manager John Farrell said. “(He’s) an exciting young player, extremely talented guy. There’s all positive reviews and evaluations of him. When that major league experience is going to initiate, time with tell that. But in terms of playing the position of third base, yes, that conversation has been had.” … Boston RHP Brad Ziegler was unavailable for the second straight day because of the flu. … SS Matt Duffy rested a sore Achilles for the Rays, walking as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. … RHP Alex Cobb, who hasn’t pitched since late 2014 because of Tommy John surgery, returns to start for Tampa Bay at home against the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night, while David Price opens for the Red Sox in Oakland.