ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Hector Velazquez continued a season-opening stretch of strong starting pitching by Boston, working into the sixth inning and leading the Red Sox over the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 Sunday.
The first four Red Sox starters — Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Velazquez — combined to give up two runs over 24 innings. The defending AL East champions won three of four at Tropicana Field under new manager Alex Cora.
Velazquez (1-0) allowed one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. Marcus Walden, Bobby Poyner, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly, who got three outs for his first save, combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings of three-hit relief.
Kelly gave up two-out singles to Mallex Smith and Adeiny Hechavarria in the ninth before striking out Denard Span. Cora said closer Craig Kimbrel was not available after saving games Friday night and Saturday.
Brad Miller homered for the Rays, who scored just nine runs in the series.
Boston took a 2-1 lead in the sixth on Rafael Devers one-out, bases-loaded RBI single off Yonny Chirinos. Tampa Bay’s defense kept the Red Sox from a big inning as right fielder Carlos Gomez threw out Brock Holt, who tried to score from second on Devers’ hit, and left fielder Smith made a lunging catch on J.D. Martinez
Devers has driven in a run in six straight regular season games, dating to last year.
Miller put the Rays ahead 1-0 with a leadoff homer in the second.
Martinez tied it at 1 with his first Boston RBI, coming on a fifth-inning single off Jake Faria.
Jose Alvarado (0-1) then replaced Faria after Martinez’s hit and worked out of a two-on, no-out jam.
Faria allowed one run and four hits in four-plus innings.
Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, who went 8 for 12 with five doubles and a homer over the first three games, was hitless in five at-bats.
Red Sox: OF Andrew Benintendi didn’t start after playing three days on the artifical turf. He is hitless in 11 at-bats during the season-opening series. Benintendi entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth.
Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson makes his seventh career start Monday in the first of two interleague game at Miami. He went 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA in five starts last season.
Rays: With just three healthy starters — Chris Archer, Blake Snell and Faria — on the roster, manager Kevin Cash will use a second bullpen day in three days Monday when Tampa Bay travels to New York for the Yankees’ home opener. LHP Jordan Montgomery will start for the Yankees.
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