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Boston — A few relaxing words from David Ortiz helped get Rubby De La Rosa in the right frame of mind for his first start in nearly three years.
De La Rosa pitched seven shutout innings, Brock Holt hit his first career homer and the Boston Red Sox won their sixth straight with a 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.
The teams kept it clean a day after having their second benches-clearing scrum in less than a week.
Taking the mound for a tense start after the teams cleared the benches in their last two meetings, De La Rosa heard all he needed from Big Papi.
“David told me whatever happened last night, just focus on pitching,” said De La Rosa, who allowed four hits and struck out eight without issuing a walk in his first start since July 31, 2011, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr. each hit two-run homers, and Jonathan Herrera had three singles as the Red Sox continued to rebound from a recent 10-game losing streak.
There was no carry-over from Friday night’s game, when three Red Sox managers and a pitcher were ejected after Rays starter David Price hit Ortiz in the first inning and Mike Carp in the fourth.
“No pregame warnings,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “We met with the umpiring crew before the game, just had a chance to talk about a couple of things. That was it.”
De La Rosa (1-0), recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Pawtucket, made his first start for the Red Sox.
“He showed four pitches for strikes,” Farrell said. “Given the environment, given what we went through last night, he was outstanding.”
The 25-year old right-hander was acquired in Boston’s salary-dump deal in August 2012 that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers.
Rays first baseman James Loney, who also came over in the deal with De La Rosa, remembered the talent the righty showed.
“Yeah. he’s always had an electric arm and wants to be out there, a good competitor,” he said. “He’s probably what, mid 20s? Back then, he was a good pitcher and you knew he was going to be good.”
Kevin Kiermaier had an inside the park homer for the Rays, who have lost five straight. It came when Bradley Jr. attempted a leaping grab and the ball caromed off the Green Monster, off his face and rolled away as he was down on the ground.
Rays manager Joe Maddon was happy the teams didn’t follow Friday’s hard feelings with any nastiness.
“It was really nice to go out there and not be concerned with a bunch of garbage and just play the game,” he said. “I was pleased with that a lot. I thought it was a well-played game.”
Last Sunday at Tropicana Field, the clubs had a scrum after the Red Sox were yelling from the dugout when Yunel Escobar stole third with the Rays holding a big lead.
Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (2-5) lasted just 3 1-3 innings, giving up five runs and six hits with two wild pitches.
The Red Sox grabbed a 3-0 lead in the third when Holt homered in Boston’s bullpen after Herrera singled. Carp added a sacrifice fly.
Boston added two more in the fourth and chased Odorizzi. Herrera dropped down a safety squeeze, and was credited with a hit, when Grady Sizemore slid in just under the throw, making it 4-0. A.J. Pierzynski added an RBI single.
Bradley Jr.’s two-run homer made it 7-0 in the fifth.
• Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia was out with a sore right hand. He was hurt on a swing in Friday. He had an MRI and the results showed “no further or structural damage.” ... Rays RF Wil Myers and SS Escobar were also out with injuries. Myers hurt his right hand in a fall when he tumbled over CF Desmond Jennings as the pair collided on Pierzynski’s game-ending triple on Friday. Escobar injured his quad running out a grounder Friday, but Maddon said he should be back “(Sunday) or Monday at the worst.” ... Red Sox LHP Jon Lester (5-6, 3.45 ERA) faces LHP Erik Bedard (2-3, 4.10) in the series finale today. ... To make room for De La Rosa, the Red Sox optioned OF/1B Daniel Nava to Pawtucket.