Four Real? Red Sox vs Rays 9-11-13

Mike Carp hit a pinch-hit grand slam in the tenth to lift the Red Sox to a
7-3 win over the Rays in St. Petersburg Wednesday, giving Boston a
9.5-game lead over Tampa in the American League East (AP photo)

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

Pinch me, Mike Carp. I must be dreaming.

Carp came to the plate in a pinch-hit role in the tenth inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field and ripped the first pitch he saw from reliever Roberto Hernandez to center field to lift the Red Sox to a 7-3 victory.

It was Carp’s second career grand slam.

With the win, the Red Sox claimed their seventh-straight series with one game still to play at the Trop and moved 9.5 games up on the second-place Rays in the American League East Division standings while cutting Tampa Bay’s elimination number to eight for the AL East crown.

It also moves the Sox to an MLB-best 89-58 on the season — the first time Boston has been a season-high 31 games over .500 since 2004.

Take from that what you will, Red Sox Nation.

The Red Sox and Rays have been on opposite ends of the pennant-race spectrum in the American League East Division race since Aug. 25. As Boston has put together a 13-3 run over that span with 27 homers, the Rays have gone into a spiral, going 4-13 over that same stretch with only ten jacks.

Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster made it five innings in this one and gave up one run on four hits while striking out seven and giving up five walks and Koji Uehara came on in the ninth to work another 1-2-3 inning to set a new team record by retiring his 33rd consecutive batter, surpassing Ellis Kinder’s record of 32 set down back in 1952. He also secured the win and moved to 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA on the season.

Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb made it 5.2 innings and gave up three runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking three, but it was Joel Peralta who was charged with the loss to fall to 2-7 when Carp launched the granny off Hernandez in extras.

Carp, collecting four RBI on the pinch-hit slam, was the obvious hero on the night, while Dustin Pedroia — leading off the top of the order in place of the injured Jacoby Ellsbury for only the second time since 2009 — went 2 for 4 at the plate and Mike Napoli went 1 for 3 with a walk and two RBI. Daniel Nava also went 2 for 3 with the other Red Sox RBI.

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

1) Stepping Up To The Mike: With none out and the bases juiced in the third, Napoli doubled on a liner to right that Wil Myers misplayed, allowing both Pedroia and Shane Victorino to cross the dish to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.

2) Personal DeJesus: With the Red Sox leading 3-0, Ryan Dempster served up a double to David DeJesus to cash in Yunel Escobar and cut the Boston lead to 3-1.

3) Ray of Light: With Boston holding on to a 3-2 lead in the eighth, one-time Red Sock James Loney got the better of his former team, tying the game up by hitting his 12th homer of the year into the right-field stands off Brandon Workman.

4) In A Pinch: With the bases loaded in the tenth, Mike Carp — to quote fill-in color man Derek Lowe — “sent the natives to the turnstiles” by crushing a Roberto Hernandez/Fausto Carmona pitch deep to center field for Boston’s first pinch-hit grand slam since Kevin Millar in 2003, giving the Red Sox a 7-3 lead. It was the first extra-innings grand slam for Boston since Dwight Evans hit one off Dennis Eckersley in 1989.

Tomorrow, Boston closes out the three-game set in Tampa by sending righthander Jake Peavy — 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA since coming aboard in the Jose Iglesias trade — to the hill to face Jeremy Hellickson, who is 11-8 with a 5.04 ERA for the Rays in 2013.

Twitter: @jan_doh