Tampa Bay catcher Jose Molina, one of the slowest players in baseball, started the 10th inning on Saturday by legging out a double after hitting the ball down the line in right field.
That turned into the break the Red Sox needed to get a 2-1 victory.
Molina was replaced by pinch runner Kelly Johnson, who did not score when Junichi Tazawa retired the next three hitters. Rays manager Joe Maddon then sent Jose Lobaton out to catch the bottom of the inning.
When Jacoby Ellsbury singled with one out, Sox manager John Farrell had him on the run. Lobaton has caught only 18 percent of base stealers in his four-year career, none in five tries this season.
Brandon Gomes, a righthanded reliever with a deliberate delivery, also was unlikely to keep Ellsbury from getting a good lead.
“We had a real good opportunity to steal a base. Not just because of Jake’s base-stealing ability. But it felt like the combination there was something we might be able to take advantage of,” Farrell said.
Ellsbury stole second easily and took third when Lobaton’s throw ticked off the glove of shortstop Yunel Escobar and went into right field.
With Shane Victorino at the plate, the Rays pulled the infield in and brought left fielder Matt Joyce in to play third base. They had their other infielders shift to the right side.
The Red Sox had Ellsbury going on contact as Victorino hit the ball hard on the ground to the right side of the mound. Escobar dove to stop the ball but had no play from his knees.
The Sox (6-4) had a win thanks to a fortunate series of events.
“Put the ball in play and, hey, we won the ballgame,” said Victorino, whose jaw was sore after being accidentally smacked in the postgame pileup.
• Jon Lester allowed one run over seven innings and retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced. Lester has given up three earned runs on 15 hits over 19 innings in his first three starts with three walks and 18 strikeouts. The Red Sox have won all three of those games despite facing Cy Young Award winners in CC Sabathia, R.A. Dickey and David Price.
“We fully expected Jon to get back to the levels that he’s pitched before,” Farrell said. “We stated in the offseason, he’s healthy, he’s got good stuff. There’s no reason he shouldn’t get back to that performance level and he’s doing that.”
Lester has shown better velocity, command and tempo under Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves.
“It’s been good,” he said. “Been able to make some adjustments from the first start and get a little deeper in the game. If we keep doing that, things will take care of themselves.”
• Dustin Pedroia has reached base safely in all 10 games this season and 20 in a row going back to last season.
• Lester’s five strikeouts gave him 1,078 in his career. That passed Luis Tiant for sixth place in team history. Lester needs 31 more to pass Josh Beckett for fifth.
• Middlebrooks broke an 0-for-14 skid with a single in the sixth inning.
• Ellsbury is 5 for 5 on stolen bases in 10 games this season. He was 14 of 17 in 74 games last season.
• Koji Uehara in five games this season: 4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K. He wears a red t-shirt under his uniform that says “Uehara (19) Do My Best!” in English and Japanese. How great is that?
Uehara said the shirt is for sale in Japan. Somebody could make a lot of money selling that at Fenway Park.
• Daniel Nava has reached base safely in 17 consecutive games he has started going back to last Sept. 21.
• Red Sox starters have allowed three or fewer runs in all 10 games, their best such streak to start a season in team history.
• The Rays have dropped four of their last five games.