Jeremy Hellickson thinks he pitched well enough to deserve a better outcome than his sixth consecutive defeat.
David Ortiz hit his 23rd homer and Pedro Ciriaco had three hits and drove in two runs Friday night, helping the Boston Red Sox beat Hellickson and the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1.
Ortiz hit a solo homer off Hellickson (4-6) in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to a season-best eight games.
"I thought my stuff was pretty good," Hellickson said. "I made a bad pitch to Ortiz and it cost me. For the most part I felt really good with it."
Hellickson, the 2011 AL rookie of the year, allowed three runs and five hits over six innings.
"Moving ahead, we only gave up three runs," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We have to do better offensively. We did not have a whole bunch of opportunities to score runs."
Franklin Morales (2-2) allowed two hits over five scoreless innings to win for the second time since the left-hander was moved into the starting rotation last month. The left-hander walked three and struck out five before being replaced by Scott Atchison, who yielded an unearned run in the sixth.
"Nine innings of really good pitching," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said.
Ciriaco has started four games since his promotion from the minor leagues last week and is 10 for 12 with six RBIs over the past three, including a two-run single that made it 3-0 in the second inning.
The fourth-place Red Sox lost six of seven games entering the All-Star break. But with the win before a crowd of 29,089 at Tropicana Field, they pulled within one game of the third-place Rays in the AL East standings.
Ortiz is hitting .440 (11 for 25) with 10 walks during his hitting streak. The Rays walked him intentionally twice, once to load the bases before Mauro Gomez grounded into an inning-ending double play in the seventh.
Sean Rodriguez drove in Tampa Bay's run with a sixth-inning double off Atchison. The hit drove in Ben Zobrist, who reached on shortstop Mike Aviles' two-base throwing error.
Alfredo Aceves pitched a perfect ninth for Boston, earning his 20th save in 24 opportunities. Jacoby Ellsbury, activated from the disabled list before the game, went 1 for 5 in his first action since hurting his right shoulder on April 13 while trying to break up a double play.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who left Boston's final game before the break because of illness, remained out of the lineup. His replacement, Gomez, went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and was charged with a first-inning error when a throw from third baseman Will Middlebrooks appeared to tear through the webbing of Gomez's glove.
Gomez changed gloves, and Morales escaped a jam with runners at first and third when Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton was caught trying to steal second.
The Red Sox starter also worked through tight spots in the fourth and fifth without allowing a run. He walked three straight batters to load the bases with two outs in the fourth, then struck out Luke Scott. Jose Lobaton doubled for Tampa Bay's second hit with one out in the fifth but was stranded there when Morales fanned Elliot Johnson and Carlos Pena.
"We just have to figure out a way to score four runs on a night we give up him three," Maddon said. "That's what it all comes to."
NOTES: The Rays batted .232 as a team before the All-Star break, lowest in team history. They are one of eight teams all-time that have hit as low as that while also reaching the break with a winning record. ... Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia (right thumb) is taking batting practice. ... Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz, Saturday's scheduled start, will be making his first appearance since being sidelined by a stomach illness on June 20. ... Clemson 3B Richie Shaffer, the 25th pick of last month's amateur draft, agreed to a contract with the Rays for a signing bonus of $1.71 million. ... Boston RHP Andrew Bailey (right thumb surgery) has started throwing off a mound. ... Boston manager Bobby Valentine said LF Carl Crawford (left wrist surgery, groin strain), currently playing at Triple-A Pawtucket, is getting closer to rejoining the team.