St. Petersburg, FL – Clay Buchholz tossed five scoreless innings in his first start in more than three months, and the Boston Red Sox shut down the Tampa Bay Rays, 2-0, in the opener of a three-game series.
Buchholz (10-0) returned to the mound for the first time since June 8 and gave up three hits and one walk with six strikeouts. The 29-year-old right-hander had been sidelined by neck stiffness, but picked up right where he left off and won his fourth consecutive start dating back to May 22.
"To see him walk to the mound, I think it gave everybody a boost in confidence," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Buchholz.
Koji Uehara continued his recent string of dominance by posting a four-out save, his 19th of the season.
Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in runs for the Red Sox, winners in six of their last seven and owners of an 8 1/2-game lead over their Tuesday foes in the AL East.
David Price (8-8) fared well in defeat, allowing only two runs on three hits with nine strikeouts over eight full frames, for the Rays, who have lost four of five.
"We've got 19 games left, so you go now or we won't be hanging around in October," Price said.
Tampa Bay is locked in a battle with Texas, which is hosting Pittsburgh, for the top spot in the AL wild card race.
Buchholz was in control throughout, leaving with a 2-0 lead after retiring six of the final seven batters he faced. Craig Breslow then tossed two scoreless frames.
Junichi Tazawa entered in the eighth and retired the first two batters before Yunel Escobar doubled off the wall in left center. Uehara was called on and retired Wil Myers on a pop out in foul territory up the first-base line.
The Japanese sensation worked his 31st consecutive scoreless frame in the ninth, setting down all three Rays.
The Red Sox broke through in the fifth. Mike Napoli led off with a double to center which was inches away from being a home run, then scored when Gomes followed with a base hit. Daniel Nava sacrificed him to third and a Saltalamacchia fly to right made it 2-0.
The Red Sox lead the season series 11-6, and have taken five of seven on Florida's Gulf Coast ... Buchholz threw 74 pitches, 44 for strikes, while Price was removed after 127 pitches and 92 for strikes ... The clubs combined for eight hits, four per side.