The Tampa Bay Rays took full advantage of their schedule to rise from fourth place in the American League East to second. A series of games against the Astros, Twins, White Sox, and Blue Jays aided that cause.
But the Rays are a product of excellent pitching far more than the calendar. That was evident on Monday night.
All-Star lefthander Matt Moore dominated the first-place Red Sox, giving up two hits in a 3-0 victory.
It was the first career shutout for the 24-year-old, who walked one and struck out four. The Red Sox advanced only one runner beyond first base and never came close to scoring.
Welcome to the pennant race. The Rays have won six straight, 14 of 15, and 18 of their last 20 games. They now sit only a half-game behind the Red Sox with three games left in the series.
James Loney, who played 30 games for the Red Sox last season, drove in two runs for the Rays.
Moore (14-3) was never really challenged. Of the 24 balls the Red Sox put in play, 10 were groundouts and five were popups. Moore threw only 65 pitches through the first six innings and finished the game with 109, 74 for strikes.
The Rays arrived in Boston nearly four hours before the Red Sox finally beat the Yankees on Sunday night. As the Red Sox were grinding through an 11-inning game against their old rivals, the Rays were enjoying a free night. It showed on Monday.
The Rays scored a run against Sox reliever Jose De La Torre in the top of the ninth inning, causing Moore to have an extended break before retaking the mound.
It hardly mattered as he retired the side in order. Moore retired the final seven batters in a row.
Moore is 6-0 with a 1.50 earned run average in his last six starts. Over 42 innings he has allowed 20 hits.
Red Sox rookie righthander Brandon Workman was impressive in his first appearance at Fenway. He allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings. The 24-year-old walked two and struck out four.
Workman, a second-round draft pick in 2010, has been developed as a starting pitcher. But the Sox called him up from Triple A Pawtucket July 9 with the intent of making him a reliever, at least temporarily.
Workman ended up in the rotation when fellow rookie Allen Webster was demoted following a rough start against the Seattle Mariners. In two starts since, Workman has allowed four earned runs on nine hits over 12⅓ innings. He has walked three and struck out nine.
With Clay Buchholz still weeks away from returning, Workman’s spot in the rotation seems secure for now.
Workman needed 33 pitches to navigate through the first inning. But he managed to give up only one run.
Desmond Jennings started the game with a single but was picked off.
Singles to Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria followed. With runners at first and third, Loney hit a two-strike fastball deep enough to right field to score a run.
Workman walked Luke Scott to extend the inning but got Kelly Johnson on a fly ball to left field.
Workman didn’t allow another run until the fifth inning. Yunel Escobar, the No. 9 hitter, drew a walk on five pitches. Jennings then bunted the runner to second base.
Zobrist followed with a slowly hit ball to shortstop. Jose Iglesias made a quick play on the ball but umpire Tony Randazzo called Zobrist safe. Sox manager John Farrell argued the call at length.
Workman struck out Longoria for the second out. But Loney knocked a single into right field to make it 2-0.
Workman retired the final four batters he faced. He left after throwing 103 pitches.
As Workman gave the Red Sox a solid start, Moore was dicing up the Red Sox.
Mike Napoli singled with one out in the second inning then had a nice view of Moore striking out Jonny Gomes and Ryan Lavarnway on eight pitches.
Moore had retired eight straight when Napoli drew a walk to start the fifth inning. That rally lasted all of two pitches as Gomes grounded into a double play.
Brandon Snyder, playing third base against the lefthander, crunched a fastball to lead off the sixth inning and drove the ball deep to center. As the crowd started to react, Jennings settled under the ball at the base of the wall. It was just a loud out.
The Red Sox didn’t put another runner on base until there were two outs in the seventh. David Ortiz beat the defensive shift with a single down the line in right.
With Napoli at the plate, a wild pitch moved Ortiz to second base.
Napoli had a good at-bat but flied to right on the sixth pitch he saw.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.