ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.(AP) The
Boston Red Sox
didn't take any chances.
With a seemingly comfortable lead slipping away in the eighth inning Tuesday night, manager
to work overtime to finish off an 8-4 victory over the
Tampa Bay Rays
''The way the inning was unfolding, it looked like the game was going to be won or lost in the eighth,'' Francona said after
his closer bailed the AL wild-card leaders out of a jam and then pitched a perfect ninth for his 33rd save.
''He got out of it with no runs, which is kind of hard to do. He felt good enough to go back out and have a crisp ninth. So,
it worked out about as well as it could.''
Papelbon entered with two runs in and the bases loaded with no outs and shut down the AL champions with help from a diving
catch by center fielder
, who snared
's sinking liner before scrambling to his feet to keep a runner from tagging up at third.
''That,'' Rays manager Joe Maddon said, ''is a do-or-die play.''
Papelbon, who struck out B.J. Upton for the first out, got
to foul out to end the inning. The save was his fifth of more than one inning.
''Those are pressure situations. The guy that's the coolest will come out on top,'' Papelbon said. ''You get into situations
like that, it boils down to focus. It's a focus thing.''
The victory was the 11th in 14 games for Boston, which got a rare win at Tropicana Field to drop Tampa Bay a season-high six
games behind the wild-card leaders.
Just as discouraging for the Rays, who also trail Texas in the wild-card standings, was the announced crowd of 17,692 - less
than half the capacity at Tropicana Field and 11,755 less than the teams averaged for six previous meetings in the domed stadium
, who lost to the Rays in a seven-game AL championship series last year, remained 6 1/2 games behind the first-place
New York Yankees
in the AL East.
The Rays vowed to battle back.
''I'm not frustrated at all,'' Maddon said, adding that he could not fault his team's effort.
''They beat us. We made some mistakes. It happens,'' he said. ''What's that game time - 7:08 tomorrow night? We'll show up.
I promise you.''
(11-7) allowed two runs and seven hits, walked one and struck out nine in six innings. He gave up an RBI single and solo homer
, who hit his AL-leading 39th leading off the fourth.
Francona said Lester left with tightness in his groin, but the manager didn't think it was serious.
Bay hit his 30th homer, a solo shot in the fourth off
(6-8), who returned from a two-month stint in the minor leagues to - at least for the moment - fill the opening in Tampa Bay's
rotation created by the trade that sent
Los Angeles Angels
Drew hit a two-run homer off the Rays starter in the fourth. Youkilis had a sacrifice fly off Sonnanstine and hit his 23rd
to increase Boston's lead to 7-2 in the eighth.
pitched a perfect seventh in his second appearance for the
since being acquired from the
New York Mets
last week, but the Rays made it interesting in the eighth against
All five batters Okajima faced reached base, with
delivering RBI singles to trim Tampa Bay's deficit to 7-4. Francona then turned to Papelbon an inning earlier than usual.
Boston won for just the second time in seven games at Tropicana Field this year. The
are 3-13 in the Rays' ballpark over the past two regular seasons.
Sonnanstine made his first big league start since beating Philadelphia on June 25. He had the highest ERA (6.61) in the majors
when he was demoted to the minors two days later, and was 1-7 with an 8.22 ERA in nine road starts.
The right-hander had been much sharper at home (5-0, 4.54 ERA) before Tuesday night, although a pair of fielding errors -
one by second baseman
, and the other by first baseman Pena - set up a pair of Boston runs.
''It's a tough game. Errors are going to happen,'' Sonnanstine said. ''I need to do a little bit better job of stopping the
floodgates from opening.''
NOTES: Ellsbury's RBI triple in the ninth made it 8-4. ... Lester struck out the side in the second, hiking his season total
to 191 - a record for a
left-hander. He finished with 196.
fanned 190 for Boston in 1987. ... Bay reached 30 homers for the fourth time. ... Pena has four homers in 26 career at-bats