Rays get best of BoSox to kick off key four-game set

As American League wild card hopefuls, the Tampa Bay Rays looked to be at their fighting weight.

The fading Boston Red Sox seemed punchless.

Evan Longoria, Casey Kotchman and B.J. Upton all homered Thursday night and the Rays moved within three games of the wild card-leading Red Sox with a 9-2 victory in the opener of a four-game series at Fenway Park.

It was Tampa Bay's sixth straight win over Boston and fourth in less than a week after a weekend sweep at home.

The Red Sox, after mustering just six hits against starter Jeremy Hellickson and four Rays relievers, fell to 3-11 in September.

Longoria hit a three-run homer in the third inning to cap a four-run rally that proved to be all the offense Tampa Bay needed to improve to 9-3 in its last 12 games.

Later, Kotchman and Upton belted two-run homers in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively.

Hellickson (13-10) surrendered three hits and a run in 5 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out as many in his fourth game against Boston this season.

The 24-year-old right-hander improved to 2-1 versus the Red Sox, with the only no-decision coming in Tampa Bay's 6-5 win on Saturday.

"Pitching and defense, that's the way we're built," Upton said. "Up and down the lineup, we're not going to beat you with home runs. The rest of it, I think your pitching has been consistent and our defense has been consistent."

Red Sox rookie Kyle Weiland, who started that game against Hellickson and also received a no-decision, took the loss Thursday. Weiland (0-2) was charged with four runs on three hits and two walks in just three-plus innings.

David Ortiz had two hits for Boston, including a leadoff single in the second inning for the game's first hit. He advanced to third base on a wild pitch and a balk, but the Red Sox stranded him there and Tampa Bay erupted for four runs in the third to take the lead.

"You're throwing everything out there right now," Ortiz said. "(Kevin) Youkilis is playing injured. I went out there today not 100 percent. You saw Gonzo (Adrian Gonzalez) yesterday, his leg tied up on him. He went out there and played today. You don't see anybody trying to shut it down. We know we need to win some games. That's why you see myself and others trying to play through injuries. We're running out of time."

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia streaked toward the middle on Kotchman's bouncer and got him by a step on an off-balance throw for the first out, but John Jaso followed with a double to kickstart the rally.

Weiland walked Desmond Jennings with two outs and Upton hurt him with a broken-bat single that got through the left side of the infield -- along with part of his bat -- to score Jaso.

Longoria then knocked his 27th homer of the season into the Red Sox bullpen in right-center field, giving the Rays their early 4-0 advantage.

Boston scratched out a run in the bottom of the inning after Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off with a walk and Marco Scutaro followed with a single. A wild pitch moved the runners up and Pedroia walked to load the bases for Gonzalez, whose ground out scored Saltalamacchia from third.

Weiland was taken out for Trever Miller with two runners on in the fourth inning. Gonzalez prevented a run by charging Jaso's bunt from first base and flipping the ball home to get Johnny Damon sliding.

But the Rays tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning when Kotchman stroked his 10th homer of the season into the Red Sox bullpen, also scoring Damon for a 6-1 lead.

It could have been a three-run blast, but Boston reliever Franklin Morales had picked off Ben Zobrist at first base two batters earlier.

Matt Albers took over for Morales in the seventh and walked Desmond Jennings leading off before surrendering Upton's 21st homer of the season into the Green Monster seats. Later, Andrew Miller gave up an RBI single to Kotchman that made it 9-1.

Boston scored a run off Alexander Torres in the ninth inning on Darnell McDonald's single to left field, which scored Joey Gathright.

Game Notes

The Rays improved to 10-5 in the season series against Boston and 2-2 on a current 11-game road trip against the Orioles, Red Sox and Yankees. They lost the last two games of a three-game series in Baltimore and are headed to New York for four games with the Yankees after this series...The Red Sox have lost series to the Yankees, Rangers, Blue Jays and Rays this month. After this four-game set, they will play their final 10 games of the season against the Yankees and Orioles, including seven with Baltimore.