BOSTON (AP)—The liner smacked off David Wells’ right knee and the left-hander winced, fell to the ground and wore a look of disbelief at his bad luck.
It was the same knee that had kept him on the disabled list for six weeks until Friday night, when he pitched well in Boston’s 8-4 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The same knee that was sprained now has a deep bruise that could send Wells back to the DL for the third time this season.
“That is a possibility,” manager Terry Francona said, “but we won’t do that until we know that we have to.”
The 43-year-old Wells, who is to be re-examined Saturday, gave the Red Sox hope that he could contribute when he allowed just one run and five hits with no walks or strikeouts before leaving the game with one out in the fifth and Tampa Bay leading 1-0.
“I thought he looked great,” Francona said. “We weren’t just encouraged, we were thrilled.”
Jonathan Papelbon set a rookie record for most successful save opportunities to start a season with his 17th when he retired his only batter, Carl Crawford, on a liner to left with two outs and runners at second and third.
Before then, Crawford had hit two homers in the game. He went 2-for-5 and is 10-for-14 with three homers and six stolen bases in his last three games.
“We’ve been playing with my swing and found something that worked a little bit,” Crawford said. “I’m trying to use the bottom hand more.”
Still, Tampa Bay is 2-15 in its past 17 games at Fenway Park.
Scott Kazmir (7-3) has Tampa Bay’s last three wins over Boston and allowed just four singles through four shutout innings. But the Red Sox took the lead for good in the fifth on Ortiz’s three-run double that gave him 45 RBIs before Lowell’s homer in the sixth. Both hits off Kazmir were on sliders.
“We didn’t get to him early,” Boston’s Kevin Youkilis said. “He just made one mistake to one guy at a crucial point.”
Kazmir said he felt comfortable “but sometimes I was overthrowing my slider and just hung it up there.”
Wells had offseason surgery on his right knee and started the season on the disabled list. He went back on it April 14 after allowing seven runs and 10 hits in an 8-4 loss to Toronto two days earlier.
He was coming off a solid rehabilitation outing last Sunday for Triple-A Pawtucket. But before Friday’s game was half over, he lay on his stomach after reaching for the inside of his knee once Lee’s liner hit it.
An examination showed the deep bruise with “no immediate evidence of a serious injury,” Red Sox medical director Dr. Thomas Gill said.
“Your first reaction is you hope he gets up,” Lowell said. “Then you hope it’s nothing serious. People don’t realize how close those pitchers are.”
Julian Tavarez (1-0) pitched 2 1-3 innings in relief of Wells.
“They always call me rubber arm,” Tavarez said. “The manager knows that I get ready with three or four pitches.”
The Red Sox made it 6-1 in the next inning. Jason Varitek drew a leadoff walk and Lowell followed with his seventh homer. They loaded the bases again when first baseman Lee was charged with an error as Trot Nixon’s infield popup fell safely before Gonzalez and Youkilis singled. Loretta then hit a sacrifice fly.
Tavarez allowed two runs in the sixth on an RBI single by Damon Hollins and a sacrifice fly by Lee that cut the lead to 6-3.
Nixon’s RBI single after Lowell’s double made it 7-3 before Crawford hit a solo shot, his fourth homer of the year, in the eighth off Keith Foulke.
Foulke appeared to have words with a fan as he walked into the dugout.
Ortiz singled in the final run in the eighth.
But Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was pleased with his team’s comeback.
“It took three line drives in the ninth inning to get us out,” he said.
And one to send Wells back to the doctor.
Every Boston starter reached base through six innings. … Lowell’s homer was the 150th of his career. … Tavarez bailed Boston out when he replaced Wells in the fifth by getting Joey Gathright to line into a double play.