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 11/2-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.
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.