Lester beats Price, Rays to remain unbeaten
St. Petersburg, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox pulled out of an offensive funk to help Jon Lester stay unbeaten.
Lester pitched seven solid innings and Stephen Drew hit his second career grand slam during an eight-run third inning that keyed a 9-2 victory over AL Cy Young winner David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night.
“It’s bound to turn around,” Drew said after the Red Sox won for just the third time in their last 12 games. “We know the past couple games haven’t been too good with runners in scoring position, so tonight was a great night to have and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Price (1-4) departed from the marquee pitching matchup because of a left triceps strain during Boston’s eight-run third inning, which Drew finished with his towering homer off Jamey Wright.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Price had a MRI and that the injury doesn’t appear to be serious. Price said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of making his next scheduled start on Monday, although Maddon said that’s unlikely.
“It’s just something I take pride in, being available every fifth day and being out there for my team,” Price said. “I don’t know how that’s looking right now, but I’ll just get re-evaluated (Thursday). The biggest thing is going to be how I feel. Hopefully I can come in and play catch. That’s what I have on my mind right now, so we’ll see.”
Coming off a one-hit, complete game shutout of Toronto, Lester (6-0) allowed two runs and eight hits to help end the Rays’ season-high six-game winning streak.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, stopped a three-game losing streak that’s been part of a May slide. They are 5-9 this month after going a major league-best 18-8 in April.
“We haven’t been scoring a bunch of runs lately and (the 8-run inning) takes a lot of pressure off so I could just go out and execute pitches,” Lester said.
“We broke out with eight runs in the one inning, and it gave Jon a cushion to pitch,” Boston manager John Farrell said.
“It goes back to us controlling the strike zone, putting up quality at-bats,” Farrell added. “When we’re right and we’re clicking offensively, that’s when we grind deep into each at-bat, and I thought we did that multiple times tonight. ... We had a good offensive approach.”
Price left with one out in the third inning after giving up an RBI single to David Ortiz. The left-hander walked toward the plate after delivering the pitch to the Red Sox designated hitter and appeared to grimace.
Maddon, pitching coach Jim Hickey, a team trainer and the entire Rays infield joined Price on the mound. Price walked off the field after a brief consultation and was replaced by Wright.
“I didn’t see exactly when it happened. I saw him motion to come on out to the mound,” Maddon said, adding that he wasn’t sure if Price was injured on his final pitch to Ortiz or earlier in the inning.
“We had him checked out, had the MRI done,” the manager said. “Nothing seems to be serious, but we’ll make a better call (Thursday).”
A 20-game winner last year, Price has struggled this season. Tampa Bay has lost seven of his nine starts, and Price uncharacteristically has given up eight leads over his last seven outings.
The Rays’ ace has been bothered by allergies since before the start of spring training, but Price said this week he’d never use that as an excuse for his performance. He gave up two-out doubles to Dustin Pedroia in the first and Will Middlebrooks in the second without allowing further damage.
The Rays weren’t as fortunate in the third, when Price walked Drew and gave up a single to Jacoby Ellsbury to begin Boston’s biggest inning of the season.
Pedroia’s RBI single gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Ortiz’s opposite-field single that just eluded diving third baseman Evan Longoria made it 2-0.
Mike Napoli doubled and Jonny Gomes singled off Wright to drive in the final two runs charged to Price, who allowed four runs and five hits in 2 1-3 innings. Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked with two outs to load the bases for Drew, who lifted a 1-1 pitch into the half-filled right-field stands at Tropicana Field.
Pedroia has a seven-game hitting streak, and he’s had multiple hits in six of those games. Middlebrooks hit a solo homer off Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth.
Desmond Jennings tripled to drive in Tampa Bay’s first run, then scored when Ben Zobrist grounded out.
• Price has not won at Tropicana Field since July 19, 2012, a stretch covering eight starts. ... Boston RHP Andrew Bailey (right biceps strain) felt fine one day after a bullpen session and will pitch in a simulated game today. A decision on whether he will be activated from the 15-day disabled list or pitch in a minor league game will be made after the outing. ... Red Sox LHP Franklin Morales (lower back strain) is scheduled to make his fourth minor league appearance Saturday with Triple-A Pawtucket. ... Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb (4-2) will start tonight’s series finale, his first outing since striking out 13 in 4 2-3 innings against San Diego to become the first pitcher in major league history to fan that many batters in an appearance lasting fewer than five innings. The Red Sox will counter with LHP Felix Doubront (3-1).
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