The Boston Red Sox own the best record in the American League and have stuffed themselves with plenty of wins against the Tampa Bay Rays to get where they are.
The AL East-leading Red Sox look to pile on another victory versus the Rays Wednesday at Fenway Park and are 9-2 against the division inhabitants this season. The Red Sox added to Tampa Bay's misery with a sweep of Tuesday's doubleheader, as they posted 5-1 and 2-1 victories to open a three-game set.
In the opener of the twinbill, David Ortiz drove in three runs and Jacoby Ellsbury was 3-for-5 with three runs scored. Shane Victorino had two hits, two runs scored and an RBI and the offensive effort propelled starting pitcher Alfredo Aceves to the victory. Aceves limited the Rays to a run and three hits in five innings for a 4-1 mark on the season.
"Five solid innings of work," Boston manager John Farrell said of Aceves' performance. "I think most importantly, other than the three walks in the second inning, he was around the plate."
The nightcap provided more fireworks for the Fenway faithful and former Ray Jonny Gomes was at the forefront with a game-winning two-tun homer in the bottom of the ninth inning. Gomes crushed a Joel Peralta offering over the Green Monster in left field and has two homers in the past three games.
"I guess bottom nine, no one out, leadoff walk, possible bunt situation, he picked over maybe seeing if I would square around to bunt, so I thought bunt was in their mind," Gomes said.
Daniel Nava also homered for the Red Sox, who have won 11 of the past 17 games and sit 2 1/2 games ahead of Baltimore in the AL East. New York is four games off the pace.
Boston will visit Detroit for four games after this series with the Rays and hope Ryan Dempster can complete the sweep when he takes the mound Wednesday. Dempster has lost five of his last seven decisions and had a personal two-game winning streak stopped in Friday's 2-0 loss to the Orioles.
Dempster was effective with 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball and was done in by walking five batters to four strikeouts. The right-hander, who is 4-7 in 14 starts with a 4.21 ERA, struck out 10 Rays in a no-decision earlier this season and is 3-4 with a 3.88 ERA in nine career starts against Tampa Bay.
The Rays have lost three in a row and eight of 10 games to fall seven games back in the division. Chris Archer was dealt the loss in the first game at Fenway and gave up four runs -- three earned -- in 4 2/3 innings.
Peralta, of course, was victimized by Gomes' game-winning two-run blast in the second contest.
"I couldn't find the strike zone," Peralta said. "So I walked [Nava] and I was trying to get [Gomes] with a first-pitch strike down and away. But I missed the location. And most of the time when that happens, you pay for it -- and I did."
Kelly Johnson tied the game at 1-1 with a home run in the top of the ninth, but Peralta couldn't force extra innings. Jake Odorizzi drew the start and was solid through 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run and no walks.
Tampa Bay is slated to visit the Yankees for four games after this trip to Beantown and will roll the dice with Jeremy Hellickson Wednesday. Hellickson was saddled with defeat his last time out in Thursday's 10-1 setback to Kansas City and was reached for eight runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. It was the right-hander's first loss since April 25 and he was 3-0 in the previous eight trips to the mound.
Hellickson struck out nine in a no-decision against the Red Sox earlier in the campaign and is 3-2 with a 4.26 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) lifetime in this series. He is 4-3 in 14 overall starts to go along with a 5.67 ERA.