The Red Sox saw their run of strong starting pitching continue Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Fla., but the team found itself on the losing end of a pitchers' duel as the Sox fell to the Rays and Jeremy Hellickson by a 2-1 count.
Clay Buchholz allowed two earned runs in five innings, scattering six hits and striking out five (matching a season high) and walking one (a season low). A balk in the bottom of the second with runners on second and third and two outs gave the Rays a 1-0 lead, and then, after the Sox tied the score in the fourth, the Rays took the lead in the sixth with a run that was charged to Buchholz but that crossed the plate after the starter had exited the contest.
Buchholz permitted back-to-back singles to open the sixth inning, placing runners on the corners with no outs. Manager Bobby Valentine summoned southpaw Andrew Miller to face left-hander Luke Scott, but the Rays DH took a pair of sliders for balls and then pulled a 2-0 fastball to right for a sac fly (thanks in part to the fact that right fielder Cody Ross struggled to pick up the ball, putting him in poor position to throw home) that gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.
On a night when the Sox were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, the Rays' second run proved enough. Hellickson (who improved to 4-0 with a 2.77 ERA) allowed one run on five hits in six innings, and three Rays relievers (Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney) tossed scoreless innings to close out the Sox. Rodney earned his 12th save by striking out Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and then, after a two-out single by Ross, getting Daniel Nava to ground out to end it.
The Red Sox scored their lone run in the top of the fourth inning, when Saltalamacchia doubled, Ross walked and Nava delivered an RBI single to tie the game, 1-1. But with runners on the corners and two outs, Mike Aviles grounded out to end the threat, positioning the Rays to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth on Scott's sac fly.