Tampa Bay holds off Boston 6-5 behind Reyes and Sonnanstine

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BOSTON (AP)—This time, Al Reyes stopped the Red Sox rally.

The Tampa Bay closer fanned Manny Ramirez with two runners on for the final out, and the Devil Rays held off Boston 6-5 on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, Reyes allowed two runs in the ninth that gave the Red Sox a 2-1 win.

“The interminable ninth here at Fenway,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s always like that. If you have the lead you are never comfortable.”

Boston cut it to 6-5 on Julio Lugo’s RBI double with none out in the ninth, but Reyes fanned Dustin Pedroia and came back from a 3-0 count to strike out Kevin Youkilis. After David Ortiz walked, the closer went right at Ramirez and struck him out swinging on a pitch up and in for his 18th save in 20 chances.

“I just left a couple of pitches up yesterday. You make a mistake at this level, you pay,” Reyes said. “Today I just came back aggressive and tried to hit the strike zone.”

Ramirez fouled off the first four pitches before striking out. Looking a bit surprised, he bounced his helmet softly in his hand and walked swiftly back to the dugout.

“We had the guys right there,” Lugo said. “You’ve got plenty of confidence in the guys coming up—Pedroia, David and Manny.”

Andy Sonnanstine (2-8) took a shutout into the seventh inning to end his eight-game losing streak, and the light-hitting Devil Rays roughed up Daisuke Matsuzaka while building a six-run lead.

Carlos Pena drove in three runs and the Devil Rays scored five in the first three innings, matching their total for the previous 39 and snapping their three-game skid.

The Red Sox, who took two of three from Tampa Bay, stayed five games ahead of second-place New York in the AL East after the Yankees lost to Baltimore.

“If we keep winning two out of three, we’re going to be just fine,” Boston’s Mike Lowell said.

Boston again failed to provide much support for Matsuzaka (13-9), who left trailing 6-0 after six. The Red Sox rallied with three runs in the seventh against Sonnanstine and one in the eighth against Dan Wheeler.

Sonnanstine won his second major league start on June 10 at Florida, 9-4. He hadn’t won since, and in his previous two outings he was 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA— he failed to get out of the fifth both times. On Wednesday, he allowed three runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings.

“I just thought it was an overall team win, but it’s always driven by the pitching,” Maddon said. “Reyes is an absolute pro. You could see him out there and he was never rattled.”

Matsuzaka entered with a 2.53 ERA since June 1, best in the AL. But he is just 6-6 during that span, largely because Boston has scored two runs or less while he was in the game in 11 of his last 14 starts.

The Devil Rays led 1-0 before two infield hits and a safety squeeze helped them score four runs off Matsuzaka in the third. Tampa Bay made it 6-0 in the sixth when Brendan Harris tripled and scored on Dioner Navarro’s sacrifice fly. Julian Tavarez replaced Matsuzaka to start the seventh.

“Having won in such a great fashion yesterday, I’m very disappointed and even sorry that I put a stop to our momentum,” Matsuzaka said through a translator.

Boston cut the lead to 6-3 in the seventh on Jason Varitek’s two-run homer and Lugo’s RBI double. Ramirez added an RBI double in the eighth, but was stranded at second.

Tampa Bay went ahead in the first on an RBI groundout by Pena after singles by Akinori Iwamura and Carl Crawford.

In the third, the first five Devil Rays batters reached safely. They loaded the bases on singles by Iwamura and Crawford and a walk to B.J. Upton. Pena doubled home two runs, Delmon Young drove in another with a slow-rolling single that second baseman Pedroia couldn’t handle, and Harris’ squeeze bunt scored Pena.

Notes

Iwamura ended an 0-for-15 slump. … Matsuzaka has alternated wins and losses in his last eight decisions. … Crawford has hit safely in 15 of 16 games and went 2-for-5. His .484 average in August is the best in the majors for the month. … Ramirez’s RBI was his 1,595th, tying him for 30th place on the career list with Mike Schmidt—one behind George Brett.

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