ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Reuters) - The American League East leading Boston Red Sox held on for a 4-2 win over their divisional rival Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Thursday.

The expected pitching duel between Tampa Bay's David Price and Boston's Clay Buchholz did not materialize as Boston scored three runs in the first two innings while Price struggled with his command.

It could have been even worse for Price had Boston capitalized on having the bases loaded twice in the first two innings.

Price, however, did recover to pitch five innings, allowing three runs on five hits and five walks while striking out five.

"I walked five, so that's tough," Price said. "I didn't command the zone at all with any pitch. You're not going to get by, especially against a team like Boston."

Buchholz left the game after five innings with stiffness in his back allowing one run on two hits and three walks while striking out five.

"It felt like a pulled muscle in there. It progressively got a little worse," Buchholz said.

"In my last inning, I was trying to compensate in my delivery. That's a good way to get hurt in other places."

Casey Kotchman hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to narrow the Boston lead to 3-2, but Adrian Gonzalez responded with a solo home run for Boston in the ninth.

Tampa Bay led off the ninth inning by putting the first two batters on base but Jonathan Papelbon secured the victory and recorded his 13th save by retiring the next three batters.

(Reporting by Mike Mouat in Windsor, Ontario. Editing by Greg Stutchbury)