Tampa pulled back within three games of the Red Sox on Saturday, as Evan Longoria's RBI single in the fifth inning proved to be the difference in a 4-3 win. Ben Zobrist hit a two-run homer for the Rays, who bounced back from a loss on Friday to win for the seventh time in their last 10 tries.
"That our guys were able to drop something like that, last night in the trash can, and come out and play that kind of game," Tampa manager Joe Maddon said. "We played two great games two nights in a row. We played well. The intensity, all that stuff, is where it needs to be. We're already playing playoff baseball now, and we're not to the playoffs yet. I think it's fantastic."
Jeff Niemann (11-7) gave up two runs on four hits over five innings to pick up the win. He struck out six and walked two.
Jacoby Ellsbury knocked in two runs for the Red Sox, who trail the AL East- leading Yankees by 4 1/2 games. New York beat the Blue Jays on Saturday.
Jon Lester (15-8) allowed four runs on five hits over seven innings to take the loss. He struck out five and walked four.
"It was a lot of deep counts. He's so good and he competes so much, he finds a way to get you that deep in the game. But he's not hitting his spots as consistently as he usually does," said Boston manager Terry Francona of Lester.
It doesn't get any easer for the Red Sox today, as they go up against one of the best left-handers in baseball in Price, who is 3-1 against them this season with a 2.70 ERA in four starts. Price, though, is just 12-12 overall on the year with a 3.34 ERA.
"I like pitching here. I like pitching against these guys," Price said of the Red Sox. "They're a tough lineup ... but I've thrown the ball well against them, and I look to do the same tomorrow."
Boston, meanwhile, will rely on knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who after seven failed attempts finally picked up win No. 200 on Tuesday. Wakefield beat the Blue Jays, despite allowing five runs and six hits in six innings to run his record to 7-6 on the year to go along with a 5.13 ERA.
"I'm very grateful; one, that it's over with; two, that it was able to happen here at Fenway Park in front of our home crowd," said an emotional Wakefield after the game. "Going outside and seeing the signs and all the people and my teammates came out in support, that says a lot about everything that's gone on in my career and tonight. I'm kind of speechless when it comes to that, but I'm very grateful that I've been able to wear this uniform as long as I have and reach the milestone I thought I'd never reach. Just very grateful."
Wakefield may be exactly what the Red Sox need this afternoon, as the 45-year- old hurler is 21-7 lifetime versus the Rays with a 3.71 ERA in 46 games (35 starts) against them.
Tampa has won 11 of its 17 matchups with the Red Sox this season and is 6-2 at Fenway, where it won six of nine a year ago.