ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The World Series champion Boston Red Sox won a series for the first time this season when Andrew Benintendi hit a grand slam and a tiebreaking ninth-inning sacrifice fly and catcher Christian Vázquez picked off Tommy Pham for the final out in a 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.
Boston had lost four of its first six series and split the other two during a 6-13 start, its worst since 1996. The Red Sox beat the AL East-leading Rays 6-4 in Friday’s series opener.
Before the game, the Red Sox put right-hander Nathan Eovaldi on the disabled list because of loose bodies in his pitching elbow and said it has not been determined whether he will need surgery.
Rick Porcello gave up two runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings, Matt Barnes (2-0) won after allowing Yandy Diaz’s tying home run leading off the eighth, and Ryan Brasier got his fifth save in six chances after getting into trouble. Daniel Robertson singled leading off and Tommy Pham singled with two outs. With Steve Pearce playing off first base, Willy Adames fouled off a pitch, and Vázquez, who had just entered in the middle of the ninth, received the second pitch and fired to first to pick off Pham.
Boston is no stranger to game-ending pickoffs. Koji Uehara picked off Kolten Wong of St. Louis at first base to end Game 4 of the 2013 World Series.
Boston went ahead in the ninth against José Alvarado (0-1) after Jackie Bradley Jr. singled leading off. Michael Chivas, a 23-year-old taken with the 26th overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft, pinch in his major league debut and doubled. Benintendi followed with his go-ahead fly.
Tampa Bay had won its first six series of the season. The Red Sox won consecutive games for just the second time this year.
Benintendi homered off Charlie Morton in a five-run second after Sandy Leon was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Avisaíl García hit a solo homer in the second, and Brandon Lowe drove in a run in the fourth with one of Tampa Bay’s franchise-record four triples. Boston had not allowed four triples in a game since June 9, 1983, against Detroit. Austin Meadows hit a two-run triple in the seventh, and Kevin Kiermaier and Ji-Man Choi also tripled for the Rays — Choi left in the sixth inning because of a tight left calf.
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