BOSTON (AP)—The Boston Red Sox dressed their rookies in thrift shop castoffs and kid-flick clothing on Sunday, as is the tradition for their last road trip of the season.
Once they get to Tampa, it’s time to get serious.
The Red Sox quickly turned their attention to the team on top of the AL East, heading south for three against the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in a building where Boston is 0-6 so far this season.
“I think it will be as intense as it when they were here,” said Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay, remembering the two last at-bat victories the Rays pulled out at Fenway last week. “We kind of owe them a little bit.”
The Red Sox moved within one game of the Rays on Sunday when Tampa Bay lost to the New York Yankees 8-4. Boston took a six-game lead in the wild card over the Minnesota Twins, who lost 7-3 to Baltimore.
The race is coming to the wire, as evidenced by the “High School Musical” tank tops and other faux fashions hung in the rookies’ lockers. Boston will play in St. Petersburg and Baltimore before coming back to Fenway Park for four against the Indians and three against the Yankees.
But first, Tampa Bay.
“It’ll be a fun series,” Lester said. “We always get a lot of fans down there so it will kind of be like a home playoff atmosphere. The pitching’s lined up pretty good, and hopefully we’ll play good baseball.”
Lester (15-5), who has not lost since the Blue Jays scored seven off him on Aug. 23, struck out six for his second straight victory. He has allowed just two earned runs in 19 1-3 innings over his last three starts, winning two.
Papelbon earned his 38th save with some help from an umpire’s mistake on a close play at second base.
Vernon Wells doubled to lead off the ninth and scored on Adam Lind’s pinch-hit single. Lyle Overbay singled off the Green Monster, but he tried to stretch it into a double and was called out by second base umpire Doug Eddings.
Replays showed Overbay got his left hand on the base before Dustin Pedroia applied the tag on a throw from Jason Bay.
“Our eyes are not as quick as cameras,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “You might have thought he was out, but we’ve all seen he wasn’t out. That was a big play for them right there. Otherwise, we’re still playing out there.”
“It’s just a matter of just trying to grind it out for the rest of the season,” Papelbon said. “I was able to grind it out and not let that final run find its way home.”
The Blue Jays won 10 straight games to eke back into the wild-card race before losing four out of six to fall 8 1/2 behind Boston.
Halladay (18-11) took the loss while pitching on three days’ rest, allowing two earned runs on six hits and striking out five in seven innings. He has lost consecutive starts since winning five in a row.
Lester’s only run came on Jose Bautista’s homer in the first.
Boston tied it in the bottom half, when Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole second took third on Pedroia’s sacrifice bunt and scored on David Ortiz’s groundout. In the second, the Red Sox took the lead when Bay doubled and scored two outs later on Crisp’s single.
Crisp added another RBI single in the seventh, then Boston made it 4-1 when Ortiz tripled with one out in the eighth and scored on Kevin Youkilis’ sacrifice fly.
It was the first triple for Ortiz since Aug. 21, 2007. … Ellsbury’s stolen base was his 48th of the season and the club’s 114th, tied with the 1973 team for second since 1918. The 1934 team had 116. … Bautista’s homer was just his second in the AL. His last was on July 26 with Pittsburgh against San Diego. … Lester is 13-1 with a 3.17 ERA against the AL East. … Overbay’s seventh-inning error at first base was his first since May 27, a span of 92 games and 868 total chances.