Rays turn tables on Sox, tie for lead in AL East

Rays turn tables on Sox, tie for lead in AL East

Rays turn tables on Sox, tie for lead in AL East
BOSTON -- The Rays flipped the script on Sunday afternoon, when Sean Rodriguez hit a game-winning homer off Red Sox closer Alfredo Aceves.

Rodriguez's two-run shot over the Green Monster pushed the Rays past the Red Sox, 4-3, in the series finale at Fenway Park.

"It's a good feeling. You always want to help the team win, and to do it in that fashion makes it better," said Rodriguez, who became the first Rays player to take Aceves deep. "I got a good enough pitch, and I was able to do something with it."

Tampa Bay was on the other side of things on Saturday night, when closer Fernando Rodney surrendered a walk-off home run to pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But on Sunday the Rays took their second straight road series on the strength of Rodriguez's fifth homer of the season.

"We know exactly how [the Red Sox] feel today based on last night," said manager Joe Maddon.

The Rays trailed, 3-2, entering the ninth. But Tampa Bay, which has faced adversity all season, with 10 players on the disabled list, including star third baseman Evan Longoria, knew there was still a chance to win both the game and the series.

"There wasn't a guy in here that doubted we couldn't come back and win tonight. That's just the attitude of this team," Rodriguez said. "Everybody thought we still had a chance -- that's the one thing we do well here. As long as there's still a few outs on the board, we feel like we can still win."

Rodney didn't miss his chance to make up for his first blown save of the year, retiring the side in order for his 16th save in 17 chances. It was fitting that Saltalamacchia was the first batter he faced.

"Loved it. That was the absolute perfect setup for Fernando," Maddon said. "I know he was wanting that exact moment. I thought it was great. He pitched very well."

Rodney showed no lingering affects from Saturday's walk-off loss and induced two groundouts before striking out Daniel Nava to seal the win.

"I wasn't thinking about what happened last night. For me, that's in the past," Rodney said. "I had nothing to prove -- just throw the ball and throw strikes."

The Rays needed the late-inning heroics after starter Jeremy Hellickson surrendered a three-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh inning that barely cleared the Green Monster.

"That was just a changeup down that for once I was able to keep my head down and stay through," Gonzalez said. "I was able to stay behind it."

Hellickson had been cruising before he walked Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz -- his first walks of the afternoon -- to start the seventh. Gonzalez turned on the second pitch he saw and sent a towering shot into the seats above the Green Monster for his fourth homer of the season.

"That's how big innings start," Hellickson said. "[Gonzalez] put a good swing on it. It was down, but he's good going the other way."

Hellickson went 7 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. He struck out three before leaving after 106 pitches with a no-decision.

Reliever Jake McGee earned his second win of the year. The southpaw entered to face Gonzalez with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth inning and induced a groundout after six pitches to keep the game within reach.

"That's a tough moment right there," Maddon said. "Jake comes in and does his thing once again. He's been spectacular."

The Rays are now 12-12 on the road and 3-4 at Fenway Park this season. They return to Tropicana Field on Monday for a three-game series with the White Sox to open a six-game homestand.

Tampa Bay is tied with Baltimore for first place in the American League East at 29-19. The Rays are 14-11 since Longoria went on the DL on May 1.

"Regarding all the different adversity we've felt to this point, it's pretty phenomenal," Maddon said. "It's a tribute to the players, especially those who have stepped up. A lot of guys have elevated their game and are making the most of it. That's the most impressive part."

The Rays got on the board first in the fourth inning, when Matt Joyce, who had doubled to right and advanced to third on an error by Gonzalez, scored on a groundout by Ben Zobrist.

Tampa Bay extended its lead in the seventh. Rodriguez doubled off the Green Monster, narrowly avoiding the tag at second base. Will Rhymes singled to left to score Rodriguez, and finished 3-for-3 in his first game of the series.

Clay Buchholz had a solid start for the Red Sox but took a no-decision after allowing two runs on eight hits in seven innings. He struck out six and has fanned at least five in each of his last eight starts against the Rays.

B.J. Upton extended his hit streak to a career-high 10 games with a single in the sixth inning.

Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.