By JIMMY GOLEN AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) _ Trade-deadline pickup Mike Aviles broke a
fourth-inning tie with his first homer since joining the Red Sox
and Boston beat Tampa Bay 4-3 on Friday night to hold off the
charging Rays and extend its lead in the AL wild-card race to four
Josh Beckett (13-5) returned from a skipped start for another
strong outing against the Rays, who trailed Boston by nine games on
Sept. 3 and had a chance to catch them with a sweep in Fenway. It
was Boston’s second win in nine games and its first in seven tries
against the Rays.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 30th save _ his
first since Aug. 18 _ striking out Evan Longoria with a runner on
second to end the game.
James Shields (15-11) lost for just the second time since July.
Longoria homered for the second straight night, and Desmond
Jennings had three hits for the Rays.
Boston ace Jon Lester faces Jeff Niemann on Saturday.
In two previous starts against Tampa Bay this season, Beckett
pitched 17 scoreless innings, allowing just a pair of infield
singles. But he ran into trouble early on Friday when Jennings led
off the game with a bunt single and took second on Beckett’s
throwing error; two batters later, Longoria homered off the top of
the Green Monster.
The Red Sox tied it in the bottom half on RBI singles by Dustin
Pedroia and David Ortiz. The teams matched runs in the third before
Aviles, who was acquired from the Kansas City Royals on July 30,
sent one off the billboard behind the Monster Seats.
Beckett, who left his previous start with a sprained ankle and
skipped his next turn in the rotation, allowed three runs _ two
earned, giving up seven hits, an intentional walk and a hit batter
while striking out seven. He fanned John Jaso with a runner on
third to end the sixth _ a called strike that got Rays manager Joe
Reliever Alfredo Aceves struck out Casey Kotchman with runners
on second and third to end the seventh and Daniel Bard, who blew an
eighth-inning lead on Wednesday, struck out three batters in the
eighth to protect the lead for Papelbon.
Shields allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks,
striking out four in seven innings.
Longoria also saved a run in the field when he dove to his right
to snare Pedroia’s liner and essentially landed on third base,
doubling off Aviles to end the seventh.
Notes: Game 3 of the four-game series is Saturday, with LHP
Lester (15-7) facing RHP Niemann (10-7). It could be the only game
in the series with a pitching matchup that favors Boston. Lester
will be trying to atone for his last performance _ four innings
pitched in a 9-1 loss to the Rays last Sunday. … Beckett earned
his 1,000th strikeout of the season when he fanned Ben Zobrist in
the sixth. … Maddon was ejected arguing a called third strike.
Earlier, B.J. Upton argued a called third strike, and Maddon rushed
out of the dugout to get between him and home plate umpire Hunter
Wendelstedt. … An odd play in the top of the eighth: Johnny Damon
was hit by a pitch, but the Red Sox appealed to third base umpire
Bob Davidson, who said he swung at the pitch for strike three. …
The Red Sox allowed a season-high seven stolen bases, three by
Damon and two by Jennings. … The Rays fanned 15 times and went 2
for 13 with runners in scoring position.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)