ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) David Price outpitched Clay Buchholz and the Tampa Bay Rays scored twice in the seventh inning without getting a hit to rally for a 5-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night.
Price (12-4) allowed three runs and six hits in 7 1-3 innings to become the first 12-game winner in the American League. The All-Star left-hander walked two and struck out eight to move ahead of Matt Harrison for the AL wins lead.
Buchholz (8-3) pitched well in his first start in more than three weeks, taking a 3-2 lead into the seventh before walking the first batter of inning and hitting the next. Hideki Matsui was walked intentionally to load the bases with one out, and the Rays pulled even when pinch-hitter Jose Lobaton drew a walk from Matt Albers.
Elliot Johnson’s sacrifice fly gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 lead, and B.J. Upton’s solo homer off Andrew Miller provided a two-run cushion in the eighth.
Joel Peralta got the final two outs of the eighth for the Rays. All-Star Fernando Rodney worked the ninth for his 26th save in 27 opportunities.
Will Middlebrooks hit a two-run homer off Price in the fourth. The Tampa Bay starter’s errant pickoff throw to third base allowed the Red Sox to take a 3-2 lead in the sixth.
Buchholz was activated from the disabled list before the game and made his first start since working six innings in a 7-5 win over Miami on June 19. He was placed on the DL with what the Red Sox described as a stomach illness, and the team later announced that he had esophagitis, which led to the erosion of his esophagus and internal bleeding.
Price pitched one scoreless inning in last Tuesday’s All-Star game in Kansas City, throwing seven pitches. He limited Boston to Mike Aviles’ second-inning single until David Ortiz singled with one out and scored ahead of Middlebrooks when the third baseman hit an 0-2, two-out pitch over the left-centerfield wall for his 11th homer of the season.
The Red Sox loaded the bases on a walk and two singles in the fifth, but didn’t score when Pedro Ciriaco flied to right fielder Ben Zobrist, who made a perfect throw to the plate to catch Kelly Shoppach trying to score from third base.
Boston snapped a 2-2 tie in the sixth without getting a hit. Cody Ross drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a passed ball and took third on Middlebrooks’ grounder to second. Ross trotted home for a 3-2 lead when Price threw high over third baseman Jeff Keppinger’s head for an error on the attempted pickoff.
NOTES: To make room on the roster for Buchholz, the Red Sox optioned INF Mauro Gomez to Triple-A Pawtucket. … Rays injured OF Matt Joyce (left oblique strain) will play for Class A Charlotte on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before being re-evaluated. Barring a setback, he may be ready to rejoin the Rays Wednesday or Thursday against Cleveland. … Jennings, Tampa Bay’s usual leadoff hitter, batted seventh after hitting eighth on Friday night. Manager Joe Maddon reiterated that Jennings remains the team’s leadoff man. He’s temporarily dropped him in the order to remove some of the pressure on the left fielder and give him an opportunity to “work on certain things that are going to get him back to being the premier leadoff hitter that he is.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)