Navarro’s ninth-inning RBI single gives Rays win
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—The Tampa Bay Rays have been resilient all season, so manager Joe Maddon is not going to start doubting his team now.
A day after Boston closed within percentage points of first place in the AL East with an awesome display of power, the division-leading Rays shut down the Red Sox with superb pitching in a 2-1 victory Tuesday night.
Andy Sonnanstine pitched six strong innings and Tampa Bay’s bullpen sparkled, too, to enable Tampa Bay to rebound from a 13-5 loss in which the Red Sox homered six times and beat All-Star left-hander Scott Kazmir.
“It’s all about starting pitching every night, not just tonight,” Maddon said. “We’ve played well this year because of that and defense.”
Dioner Navarro singled with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth to drive in the winning run for the second time in a week against the defending World Series champions, who have lost seven of eight games at Tropicana Field this season.
The Rays, who have led the division for the past 54 days, moved one game ahead of the Red Sox, who dropped two of three to the Rays at Fenway Park last week.
Dan Wheeler (5-5) struck out the only batter he faced to bail Tampa Bay out of a ninth-inning jam and get the victory.
“We’re finally getting to the point now where we’re starting to believe that we can beat these guys, and that’s very important,” Maddon said. “You’ve got to believe you can beat all the guys in the division if you’re going to win it.”
The Rays loaded the bases on Jason Bartlett’s bloop single, a walk and a hit batsmen. Navarro, whose ninth-inning double off Jonathan Papelbon gave Tampa Bay a 5-4 victory in Boston a week ago Tuesday, ended it against Justin Masterson (6-5) with his hit to center over a drawn-in outfield.
“It’s amazing how one pitch can change the complexion of the game,” Beckett said.
“I don’t think he hit that ball that good. Ninety-eight percent of the guys in the big leagues will fly out to left field on that. But he’s strong and you can’t leave a pitch up to him like that.”
Beckett and Sonnanstine were outstanding against each another for the second time in six days.
The Boston starter limited the Rays to Pena’s 29th homer and two singles in eight innings, and Sonnanstine held the Red Sox to three hits and an unearned run on Kevin Youkilis’ sacrifice fly.
Both also allowed one run in a game Tampa Bay eventually won 4-2 in 14 innings last Wednesday.
“Sonnanstine was spectacular. That’s two games in a row that I’ve seen him about as good as I can imagine him,” Maddon said.
The Red Sox snapped a scoreless tie in the sixth.
Jacoby Ellsbury beat out an infield single and Dustin Pedroia followed with a sharp grounder that Rays third baseman Evan Longoria bobbled and then kicked for an error. David Ortiz grounded to first, moving the runners up, and Youkilis followed with his sacrifice fly.
Akinori Iwamura singled with one out in the sixth for the second hit off Beckett. Pena’s homer in the seventh was his 15th since the All-Star break and only the second Beckett has allowed in his last six starts.
“I was throwing strikes with most of my pitches when I needed to,” Beckett said. “Like I said, it was unfortunate that one pitch changed the game like that.”
Red Sox 3B Mike Lowell, playing with a sore hip, left the game after singling in the ninth inning. He could hardly run to first base, and his status will be evaluated Wednesday. … Several Rays players, including Longoria and B.J. Upton, have mohawk haircuts, and Rays manager Joe Maddon showed up Tuesday wearing one as well. “It’s a unity kind of thing,” Maddon said, although his barely resembled a mohawk because the sides of his head were not trimmed as low as the others. “I didn’t hold back, I promise,” the manager said, insisting he gave the barber permission to cut it low. … Red Sox LF Jason Bay left the team to be with his wife, who is expecting a baby. He likely will return on Friday, when Boston begins a weekend series at Toronto.