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Rays 4, Red Sox 0

Not much sock

Rays’ Price keeps Boston bats quiet for a third time

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 18, 2011

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With the Red Sox having dropped a half-game behind New York in the division, and with Tampa Bay gaining a game in the wild card, Dustin Pedroia wasn’t looking to become Muddy Chicken Little.

The second baseman did, however, express some concern about the team’s present (banged-up) state after yesterday’s 4-0 loss to David Price and the Rays before a Fenway Park crowd of 37,747.

“We need to start winning some games,’’ said Pedroia after the Sox were held scoreless for the eighth time this season (first since June 28 at Philadelphia), managing just three hits off Price - singles by Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis and a triple by Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth that had the makings of an inside-the-park home run.

“We all want to win the division,’’ Pedroia said. “The Yankees aren’t going to lose, so we’ve got to win. It doesn’t matter who we run out there, we’ve got to win.’’

There was no panic in Pedroia’s tone, just a heightened sense of urgency.

The Sox completed three games in 28 hours by dropping two in a row to the Rays, and they managed just three hits apiece in the three games. They head back on the road for an eight-game swing beginning tonight in Kansas City, where they will likely be without the services of designated hitter David Ortiz, who sat out the set against the Rays with right heel bursitis, for which he was fitted with a walking boot.

Ortiz said he hoped to return before the end of the trip in Texas next week.

“Kansas City played us tough when they were here,’’ said Pedroia, noting how the Royals split a four-game series July 25-28. “They’ve got a great bullpen and a great bunch of young hitters, so we’ve got to go there and play well.’’

As for Texas?

“Geez, they whooped on us early,’’ said Pedroia, mindful of the season-opening shellacking the Sox absorbed against the Rangers (9-5, 12-5, and 5-1). “So we know what type of team they have. They pitched well and they swung the bats great. It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to have to play better.’’

The Sox will have to play much better than they did against the Rays, who got solo homers from B.J. Upton in the fourth and Evan Longoria in the fifth as they snapped John Lackey’s career-high six-game winning streak (over seven starts).

“We didn’t swing the bats well the whole series,’’ said manager Terry Francona.

Price went eight innings yesterday after complete-game efforts in Tuesday’s doubleheader by James Shields and Jeff Niemann. Only Ellsbury’s three-run homer off Shields in the first game prevented the Rays from sweeping the series.

“Fortunately, Ells hit the home run in the first game or it’d be a worse series,’’ Francona said. “Price is pretty good, a lot of velocity, movement, changeup. There’s not a lot to like if you’re in our uniform.’’

Ellsbury, as he has all season, provided a jolt in the sixth with his leadoff triple to the Bermuda Triangle in center. As right fielder Matt Joyce and center fielder Upton scurried around for the ball, Ellsbury sped around second, looking behind him.

Just when it appeared Ellsbury might go for broke and head home, third base coach Tim Bogar held up the stop sign.

“I had my back turned, and Bogey’s my eyes in that situation,’’ Ellsbury said. “If he’s going to send me, he’s going to do it when I’m halfway between second and third, but it was definitely the right decision.’’

The Sox came away empty-handed, however. After Pedroia struck out, Adrian Gonzalez grounded to the mound, and Price caught Ellsbury in a rundown - 1-5-2-6 - erasing the Sox’ best chance for a score.

After giving up an RBI double in the seventh to Ben Zobrist, Lackey departed, having thrown 125 pitches, the second-most of his career. He handed it over to Alfredo Aceves, who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless frames and allowed just one hit while striking out the side in the eighth.

Dan Wheeler came on in the ninth and got three fly outs to give the Sox one last chance.

Shields and Niemann had given Tampa Bay’s bullpen Tuesday off, but the phone rang in the visitors’ bullpen for Joel Peralta to warm up in the eighth. It rang again in the ninth, this time for Kyle Farnsworth, who entered in relief of Price after the starter threw 116 pitches.

Farnsworth closed it with a 1-2-3 inning that sent the Sox packing for Kansas City after running into three postseason-caliber pitching efforts.

“Yeah, they threw the ball great,’’ Pedroia said. “It’s a credit to them. All three of those guys did a great job. We head off on this road trip and we need to swing the bats better.’’

Much better. Otherwise, the sky might begin falling on the Sox.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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