ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox were one of baseball’s best teams in April, then become one of the worst in May, their slump creating plenty of doubt.
Manager John Farrell didn’t call a team meeting or change the lineup. He kept faith in the idea that a roster he liked would return to form and doing something radical would only hinder that.
On Wednesday night, Farrell’s patience was rewarded. Stephen Drew’s grand slam capped an eight-run third inning and the Sox went on to a 9-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays before a crowd of 15,767 at Tropicana Field.
Every Red Sox starter except Shane Victorino scored at least one run and reached base via hit or walk. Will Middlebrooks doubled and homered while Dustin Pedroia was 2 for 4 with a double in support of Jon Lester and two relievers.
The Sox (23-17) snapped a three-game losing streak. It was their second win in eight games.
The Rays had a six-game win streak ended. They had come from behind to win all six of those games. But on a night when the Sox finally had a big inning, that wasn’t happening again.
The Sox finished with 10 hits and were 5 of 11 with runners in scoring position.
The Sox hit .310 with runners in scoring position in April, the third-best mark in the majors. It was one of the factors contributing to their hot start.
That average fell to .189 in the first 13 games in May, including 4 of the last 40. Predictably, the Sox came into the night with losses in nine of their last 11 games.
The trend continued in the first two innings against Rays starter David Price.
Dustin Pedroia doubled with two outs in the first inning and was stranded when David Ortiz lined to left. Will Middlebrooks doubled with two outs in the second inning then watched as Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out.
Stephen Drew walked to start the third inning before Jacoby Ellsbury singled. Shane Victorino flied to left, but Pedroia singled in a run.
It was a little leak that led to the dam bursting. Ortiz followed with an opposite field single to left field, scoring Ellsbury. It was the last pitch David Price threw. He came off the mound with what the Rays said was tightness in his triceps.
Price is 1-4 with a 5.24 earned run average after winning the Cy Young Award last season. He has allowed 17 runs (10 earned) on 22 hits over 17 innings in his last three starts.
Jamey Wright replaced Price and a 3-0 game quickly got out of hand.
Mike Napoli’s 18th double, a line drive to the gap in right, scored Pedroia. Jonny Gomes snapped an 0-for-13 skid with an RBI single up the middle.
With two outs, Saltalamacchia walked to load the bases. Drew then sent a cutter over the wall in right field for his third home run.
It was Drew’s second career grand slam. The first came on April 29, 2011 against current teammate Ryan Dempster when Drew was in Arizona.
The Sox sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning and saw 49 pitches. The eight runs were their most in an inning this season.
Jon Lester worked efficiently with the run support, going seven innings and allowing two runs to improve to 6-0.
He allowed both runs in the third inning. Ryan Roberts singled and scored on a triple by Desmond Jennings. Ben Zobrist drove in Jennings when he grounded out.
Lester’s five strikeouts gave him 1,110 for his career. That passed Josh Beckett for fifth place in team history. Only Roger Clemens (2,590), Tim Wakefield (2,046), Pedro Martinez (1,683), and Cy Young (1,341) have more.
Lester threw a one-hit shutout against the Twins in his last start, facing 28 batters. He was not nearly as crisp this time, giving up eight hits. But he went a second straight start without a walk. Lester threw 107 pitches, 74 for strikes.
But it was a satisfying victory considering Lester was 0-4 with a 6.11 ERA in his last five starts against the Rays. The victory was his first against Tampa Bay since Aug. 16, 2011.
Lester is 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA in six starts following a Red Sox loss this season.
The Sox, who have lost three series in a row, will have Felix Doubront on the mound Thursday against Alex Cobb. A victory would give the Sox a series win before their road trip continues in Minnesota Friday.