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Red Sox Finish Rays Series With Second Win

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Mike Aviles (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Mike Aviles (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ The Boston Red Sox are happy with
their post All-Star game start.

Josh Beckett overcame early struggles to pitch six effective
innings, Will Middlebrooks drove in a pair during a tiebreaking
three-run fifth, and the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3 on
Sunday.

Boston took two of three from the Rays after dropping six of
seven before the All-Star break.

“We’ve got to win series now,” Beckett said of the Red Sox,
who are 45-44.

Beckett (5-7) allowed three runs _ all in the first _ and eight
hits. The right-hander, 5-0 over his past eight games against Tampa
Bay, struck out seven and walked two in stopping a personal
six-start winless streak.

“He’s battling this flu a little, and I think he just had to
get his feet on the ground a little,” Red Sox manager Bobby

Valentine said. “But did one heck of a job, putting those goose
eggs up. He’s a great competitor. He wasn’t going to let that game
get away him.”

Boston went ahead 6-3 during the fifth when Daniel Nava homered
and Middlebrooks had a two-run single off James Shields (8-6), who
has allowed double-digits hits in four consecutive starts.

“We need to get some momentum going in this second half,”
Middlebrooks said.

Boston closer Alfredo Aceves, in a non-save situation, loaded
the bases on three walks in the ninth, but retired Hideki Matsui on
a high fly to right to end it.

Shields lasted just five innings, giving up six runs and 11
hits. He is 3-6 over his past 12 games.

“I’m just not making my pitches,” Shields said. “That’s all.
I’ve got to do a better job of making my pitches. Of course it’s
frustrating. I’m not doing my job right now. The bottom line is
I’ve got to get better.”

Cody Ross made it 7-3 on a sixth-inning sacrifice fly.

“I like the way we’re coming together,” Valentine said.

Adrian Gonzalez put the Red Sox up 1-0 on a first-inning RBI
single. Mike Aviles’ two-run homer tied it at 3 in the second.

Ben Zobrist had a run-scoring infield single that went off
Beckett’s glove, and Desmond Jennings hit a two-run single during
the bottom of the first.

The Red Sox return home Monday night for a four-game series
against Kevin Youkilis and the Chicago White Sox. Youkilis was
traded from Boston to the White Sox last month.

Valentine questioned Youkilis’ commitment to the game during a
television interview early in the season and later apologized to
him a day later.

“I think the comment that I made early, he made a big issue out
of and I don’t think he wanted to get over it,” Valentine said.

Notes: After the game, Valentine said that LF Carl Crawford
(left wrist) will rejoin the team on Monday. He had been rehabbing
this weekend at Triple-A Pawtucket. … Boston DH David Ortiz
walked in his ninth consecutive game. The DH also has a 10-game
hitting streak. … Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria, out since May 1
with a partially torn left hamstring, took grounders. … Boston OF
Ryan Sweeney (left hamstring) didn’t play for the second straight
game, but could return soon. … Boston placed RHP Scott Atchison
on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain and
recalled pitcher RHP Junichi Tazawa from Triple-A Pawtucket.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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