Four Real? Red Sox vs Rays 9-10-13

Clay Buchholz returned to the Red Sox rotation Tuesday to lead Boston
to a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field (AP photo)

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

Granted, he was on a limited pitch count, but Clay Buchholz returned to the Red Sox rotation with a flourish on Tuesday night in his first start since early June. 

Buchholz — who had been on the disabled list with a shoulder injury since his last start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on June 8 — picked up right where he left off, going five strong shutout frames at Tropicana Field, giving up only three hits while walking one and striking out six to improve to 10-0 and lowering his ERA to 1.61 ERA as Boston opened the three-game series against the Rays with a 2-0 win.

Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa came on in relief and combined to toss two-and-a-third innings of shutout ball before Koji Uehara took the mound in the bottom of the eight and recorded a four-out save to preserve the win, striking out two and earning his 19th save of the season in the process.

For the Rays, David Price — who came into the game with a 2.93 ERA in 20 career starts against Boston — took the loss and fell to 8-8 despite going eight innings and allowing only two runs on three hits while striking out nine.

Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava accounted for Boston’s four hits in the game, while Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia cashed in the two Red Sox runs.

With the win, the American League East Division-leading Red Sox move ahead of the second-place Rays by 8.5 games and cut Tampa Bay’s elimination number to ten.

The Rays have been reeling in their last ten games, going 3-7 at the same time the Red Sox went 8-2. Two weeks ago the Rays were only 2.5 games behind the first-place Sox, but fell to 7.5 games behind Boston entering Tuesday’s action.

Here are the four at-bats that changed the game:

1) Salt Chuck: In the fourth inning, Buchholz struck out James Loney swinging before Jarrod Saltalamacchia fired quickly to Stephen Drew, who applied the tag and caught Matt Joyce trying to steal from first to end the inning. It was the second time in the game Salty nabbed one of the Rays trying to swipe second.

2) Jonny Be Good: In the fifth, former Tampa Bay Ray Jonny Gomes broke the scoreless tie with a single to center that scored Mike Napoli — who led off the inning with a double off David Price — and gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

3) Daniel Delivers: The next batter, Daniel Nava, laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved Gomes over to third and put another Boston run only ninety feet away.

4) Out With Clout: With one out, the next batter, Saltalamacchia, hit a deep sacrifice fly to center that allowed Gomes to race home and give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.

Tomorrow, Boston sends Ryan Dempster (8-9, 4.79 ERA) to the mound to look for the Game Two win against Alex Cobb, who is 8-3 with a 2.99 ERA for Tampa Bay in 2013. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. EST.

Twitter: @jan_doh