BOSTON -- The Rays know they need to start piling up wins to make some headway in the logjam that is the American League Wild Card race, and perhaps Sunday's 4-1 victory over the Red Sox to avoid a sweep was the start of something.
Winning pitcher Alex Cobb set the tone with five-plus strong innings (four hits, one earned run, five strikeouts), and Tampa Bay's offense came through with some timely hits in the mid-innings.
It was a nice bounceback for a Rays club that was outscored, 18-3, in the first two games this weekend at Fenway.
"It is kind of intimidating when you see that they put up 18 runs in the first two games," Cobb said. "You realize we need a stop in the biggest of ways to have a chance to stay in the Wild Card. You look forward to those types of moments to stop it and slow the momentum down."
The Rays took care of business on the field, but their hearts were back home with their family, friends and fans, who were dealing with the effects of Hurricane Irma.
"We were watching the TV all day in the training room," said Cobb. "You're not thinking about it while you are playing, but every other minute of the day we try to see the best possibilities we could get for our friends and family. It definitely consumes a lot of your time and emotions."
The defeat dropped Boston's lead in the AL East to 3 1/2 games after the Yankees beat the Rangers on Sunday. The Rays are 3 1/2 games behind the Twins in the race for the second Wild Card spot, though they have to vault over five other teams before catching Minnesota.
Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello (9-17, 4.64 ERA) had a 1-0 lead after four, but the Rays broke through for a pair in the fifth to take the lead for good. Wilson Ramos tied it on a well-placed bloop single down the right-field line, and Evan Longoria laced an RBI single to make it a 2-1 game.
"Just got into a little bit of a jam in the fifth inning," said Porcello. "The pitch count went up. That's pretty much it."
Porcello allowed five hits and two runs over five innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Smith throw short-circuits Boston rally: The Red Sox had just taken a 1-0 lead and looked to add to it with runners at second and third and one out in the second. Sam Travis hit a medium-depth fly ball to right field. Christian Vazquez tagged and appeared to score, but was called out at the plate on the throw by right fielder Mallex Smith. Red Sox manager John Farrell called for a challenge, but the replay official didn't see enough evidence to determine that Vazquez touched home before the tag was applied by Ramos.
"Well at the time, you've got a chance to go up two," said Farrell. "Looking back, with only one run on the board, yeah, it's big, and I think any time you think you've got a run scored and it's taken away, yeah, that's a missed opportunity. Again, we felt like he was safe." More >
Rays get relief from Jennings: Cobb was in trouble in the bottom of the sixth, after the Red Sox got two on with nobody out. Rays manager Kevin Cash went to his bullpen, and Dan Jennings came through by getting a big double play off the bat of Mitch Moreland. Rafael Devers grounded out, and the once-promising rally was over.
"Had a big opportunity in the sixth inning where we get a couple men on and then a ground-ball double play and a groundout," said Farrell. "And that was pretty much the extent of threat that we did mount. Other than that, their bullpen came in and shut us down as well."
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Boston's starting pitching is on a nice roll, having surrendered two earned runs or fewer in each of the past five games.
The Rays challenged in the fifth when Travis was called safe at first base leading off the inning. After a review of 46 seconds, the call was overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Rays: Tampa Bay travels to New York's Citi Field and will be the home team in its three-game series against the Yankees, which was relocated from St. Petersburg due to Hurricane Irma. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (8-7, 4.58 ERA) gets the nod in Monday's 7:10 p.m. ET opener.
Red Sox: After a day off on Monday, the Red Sox host the Athletics for the start of a three-game series on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (4-5, 4.33 ERA) takes the ball in his quest to win for the first time since May 26. Oakland counters with lefty Sean Manaea (10-9, 4.33 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.