BOSTON (AP)—The Red Sox kept winning at home despite losing David Ortiz.
With every batter reaching base—and a slumping Coco Crisp driving in the go-ahead run—Boston won its 11th straight game at Fenway Park with a 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in a matchup of the AL’s top two teams Wednesday night.
“It’s just a matter of continuing to do what we do well,” J.D. Drew said, “getting big hits in key situations.”
Drew and Mike Lowell hit two-run homers in Boston’s first game after a 4-6 road trip. Drew also got a key walk in the four-run sixth that was followed by Jason Varitek’s tying RBI single and Crisp’s two-run double that made it 6-4. Jacoby Ellsbury’s sacrifice fly produced the final run.
Before the game, Ortiz sat at his locker with a hard cast covering most of his left arm to protect a partially torn sheath around the tendon in his left wrist. He’s expected to wear the cast for two to three weeks then work to strengthen the wrist for a return to the lineup at an unknown time.
“Even in the very beginning parts of the season, it wasn’t just Manny (Ramirez) and David,” said Jonathan Papelbon, who struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 19 opportunities. “Now that David’s out, it’s even more noticeable that we do have a team where everybody contributes.”
In fact, the Red Sox did quite well even when Ortiz was going through one of the worst slumps of his career.
They were 4-2 in their first six home games even though he was 0-for-17. And they had a one-game division lead at the end of April despite his .184 batting average.
Ortiz is hitting .252 now and leads the team with 13 homers and 43 RBIs.
“They’ve definitely got a great lineup,” said Rays starter Matt Garza (4-2). “They’ve got a lot of pop in there and some guys that can sneak stuff through. That middle of the lineup still has a lot of pop even without Ortiz.”
Crisp snapped a 1-for-25 slump with his double in a game he wasn’t supposed to start.
Sean Casey was in the original lineup as the designated hitter with Crisp on the bench. But when left fielder Ramirez was shifted to DH because of sore legs, Crisp started in center and Ellsbury went from center to left.
“Crisp is the guy that’s been struggling, but he looked good tonight,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s a good homecourt advantage and then you combine that with the quality of hitters, you’ve got to pitch well and we didn’t.”
The Red Sox are 22-5 at home where their winning streak matched the Rays for the longest in the AL this season. Boston cut Tampa Bay’s lead in the division to a half game, although the Rays are 12 games over .500, eight more than their previous best during their 11-year history.
Rookie Justin Masterson (2-0) allowed four runs in six innings in his third major league start for Boston. Craig Hansen got out of a first-and-second jam with no outs in the eighth by retiring the next three batters.
“My performance was OK,” Masterson said. “The team’s performance was great.”
Garza started the sixth with a 4-3 lead but hit the first batter, Kevin Youkilis, with a pitch. He went to second on an error by shortstop Jason Bartlett on Ramirez’s grounder, only the 24th error by the Rays, the fewest in the majors.
“I don’t think it necessarily rattled (Garza),” Maddon said. “It was just a bad start to that inning.”
Drew then walked to load the bases with one out.
“I was able to lay off some tough pitches and get the walk,” Drew said, “and the inning kind of took off from there.”
Varitek followed with a run-scoring single that tied the game at 4. Crisp then doubled low off the left-field wall, scoring Ramirez and Drew.
The Red Sox had taken a 2-1 lead in the second on Lowell’s eighth homer, a two-run shot after Ramirez singled.
Drew’s sixth homer gave Boston a 3-2 lead in the fourth, but Tampa Bay went ahead in the sixth on Pena’s two-run homer, following a walk to Upton.
Ramirez received a standing ovation and tipped his helmet to the crowd as he stood at the plate before his first at bat. He was playing his first home game since hitting three homers in his last three road games that gave him 502 for his career. … Carl Crawford didn’t start after having an MRI on his right hamstring in Birmingham, Ala. He returned just before the game and hit into a fielder’s choice groundout as a pinch hitter in the eighth. … Before the game, Jon Lester received the pitching rubber he used in his no-hitter at Fenway Park on May 19. … Iwamura’s homer was the fourth of his career and second of the season leading off the first inning for the Rays. …Ellsbury stole his 28th base, the most by a Red Sox rookie since Amby McConnell stole 31 in 1908.