St. Petersburg, FL – The opening frame has been a major hurdle for Red Sox starter Josh Beckett this season, but the 32-year-old fireballer was able to settle down after a rough first inning Sunday to snap a six-start winless streak.
Beckett tossed six frames, while Will Middlebrooks registered three hits, two RBI and a run scored as the Boston Red Sox downed the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-3, in the rubber match of a three-game set.
Beckett (5-7) surrendered four hits and all three of Tampa Bay's runs in the first, but allowed just four more hits the rest of the way. He fanned seven and walked two in six innings to notch his first win since May 20 at Philadelphia.
"We have to figure out a way to win some series," Beckett said. "We put ourselves in this situation by playing .500 baseball, so we really need to win some series now."
The Texas native has accumulated a 10.20 ERA in the opening frame this year.
Mike Aviles smacked a two-run homer among his two hits for Boston, which had lost six of their last seven coming into the series. Daniel Nava added a solo shot.
Alfredo Aceves walked the bases loaded in the ninth, but Hideki Matsui flied out to right to end the game.
James Shields (8-6) was tagged for six runs on 11 hits and three walks in five innings for the Rays, who have alternated wins and losses over their last seven contests. It's the fourth straight start that Shields has given up 10 or more hits.
"Physically Shieldsy is fine," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of his starter via his Twitter account. "He's just been unable to execute his pitches. Probably trying to do too much which is true for a lot of guys."
The Red Sox struck first in the opening frame on Adrian Gonzalez's line drive opposite-field RBI single to left, but Ben Zobrist's RBI infield single and Desmond Jennings' two-run base hit to center in the bottom half made it 3-1 in favor of Tampa Bay.
But Aviles clubbed a two-run shot to center in the second to tie the game at 3-3 and the visitors proceeded to add three more runs in the fifth and another in the sixth.
Nava golfed a solo blast to right in the fifth and a bit later in the frame with the bases loaded, Middlebrooks brought two more runners home when he slapped a single back up the middle, giving the visitors a 6-3 edge.
Cody Ross' sacrifice fly in the sixth made it a 7-3 game.
The Red Sox placed reliever Scott Atchison on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with right forearm tightness and recalled right-handed pitcher Junichi Tazawa from Triple-A Pawtucket...Boston was 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base while Tampa Bay finished 2-for-10 and stranded 11.