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Rays 6, Red Sox 5

After rally, Sox fall

Rays pull out victory in 11th

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / September 11, 2011

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - That the plunging Red Sox showed some fight before eventually losing in the 11th inning against the Tampa Bay Rays last night did not appease first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

“We’re not playing good baseball. That has to change,’’ an angry Gonzalez said after a 6-5 loss. “The way we’re playing now is not going to fly. I don’t care if we got a few runs to make it close. We needed more.’’

The Rays won it on an RBI single by Evan Longoria, who hacked at a chest-high fastball from Daniel Bard and lined it into center field, scoring Desmond Jennings from third base with one out.

As the Red Sox trudged off the field, the Rays celebrated wildly. A team with nothing to lose is heaping pressure on a team with everything to lose.

The Sox have lost four straight, six of seven, and eight of their last 10 games. They now lead the Rays by four games in the loss column in the American League wild-card race. They still remain 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees, who have lost four in a row.

The Sox have 17 games remaining, the Rays 18. Jon Lester will be on the mound today to try to avoid what could be a costly sweep. James Shields (14-10) will start for the Rays.

The teams start a four-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday.

“Our goal is now to win tomorrow. That’s the best way to go about it. That’s the only way to go about it,’’ Sox manager Terry Francona said.

Bard (2-7) started the inning by allowing a triple to Jennings, the ball landing between Jacoby Ellsbury and Darnell McDonald in right-center. Ellsbury dived and just missed the ball.

“There was no lack of communication, it just fell in,’’ McDonald said. “We were both pretty close.’’

With the infield in, B.J. Upton grounded to first. Bard got ahead of Longoria, 0 and 2, and threw a high 98-mile-per-hour fastball.

“Exactly where I wanted it,’’ said Bard, who has given up six runs in his last two outings. “He tomahawked it.’’

Tampa Bay rookie Jeremy Hellickson went six innings, turning a 4-3 lead over the bullpen. Four relievers got six outs before closer Kyle Farnsworth took over in the ninth.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered to right field with one out. Then Ellsbury added to his MVP candidacy with a homer to right-center, his 26th of the season.

Dustin Pedroia, mired in a 2-for-30 slump, lined a pitch over the shortstop’s head and hustled to second for a double, diving in headfirst to beat the tag.

Gonzalez was next and drew a walk. That was enough for Rays manager Joe Maddon, who called in lefty Cesar Ramos to face David Ortiz. With a chance to give his team the lead Ortiz bounced into a double play to end the inning.

“The night’s disappointing the way it ended,’’ Francona said. “But, damn, we sure gave ourselves a chance. We played from behind the whole game and we gave ourselves a chance. We’ve got to keep doing that.’’

Jonathan Papelbon pitched two perfect innings, throwing only 16 pitches. But going a third inning would be most unusual for a closer and Bard came out for the 11th.

“We’ve hit a little bump in the road. It’s part of the season,’’ said Papelbon, who has thrown 20 consecutive scoreless innings. “Hopefully some of these bumps and bruises, we’ll learn from them.’’

Sox starter Kyle Weiland was in a world of trouble three batters into the bottom of the first inning.

He walked Jennings on four pitches before Upton broke his bat on a fastball but was able to dump the ball into center field. Weiland then walked Longoria on four pitches to load the bases.

Pitching coach Curt Young went to the mound to calm down his 24-year-old rookie righthander. But Weiland threw three straight balls to Ben Zobrist.

On the verge of disaster, Weiland threw a strike then got Zobrist to ground to second. A run scored, but the Sox got an out. Weiland fell behind Johnny Damon, 3 and 1, but came back to strike him out with a cutter on the outside corner after Damon fouled off three two-strike pitches.

When Matt Joyce ended the inning with a fly ball to center, Weiland had succeeded in damage control.

The Red Sox made it 1-1 in the second. Ortiz started the inning with a walk. A single by Josh Reddick and Carl Crawford’s grounder to first advanced Ortiz to third. He scored on a ground ball to shortstop by Jed Lowrie.

Weiland could not build on his first-inning escape as the Rays took a 3-1 lead by the end of the third.

With John Jaso on first and one out in the second inning, Sean Rodriguez singled to left. Jaso took third on Crawford’s weak arm and scored when Jennings grounded weakly to third.

In the third inning, the Rays loaded the bases with one out as Longoria and Zobrist had singles and Weiland hit Joyce with a pitch. Casey Kotchman’s sacrifice fly to center field made it 3-1.

The Sox tied it up in the fifth inning. With a runner on second and two outs, Gonzalez knocked a low changeup into the stands in right field for his 25th home run.

Weiland was done after four innings and 82 pitches. Alfredo Aceves came in and got two quick outs before Kotchman drove a first-pitch fastball over the wall in right for his ninth homer.

Tampa Bay built its lead to 5-3 in the sixth. Aceves hit Sean Rodriguez in the back with a fastball to start the inning. Jennings followed with a single to right. As Rodriguez raced to third, Reddick missed the cutoff man and Jennings took second.

Aceves struck out Upton, but Longoria delivered a sacrifice fly.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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