(Reuters) – The Tampa Bay Rays exploded for six runs in the eighth inning to propel them to a 9-4 pounding of the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
Jason Bartlett connected on a three-run home run and Sean Rodriguez added a two-run single during the eighth to give the win to starting pitcher Matt Garza (9-5), who completed seven innings, allowed three runs and struck out five.
Boston’s Japanese starter Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed just three runs and left the game following the sixth inning before the Rays blasted Boston’s bullpen.
The Rays (45-32) pulled to within two games of the first-place New York Yankees in the American League East division with the win.
“It feels like we’ve been playing so bad, terrible,” Bartlett told reporters. “But you look at the standings, we’re right there. If we can just keep grinding, rest up during the All Star break, and come to the second half, we can get back on track.”
Second-placed Boston (47-32) could have tied the Yankees with a win but instead remained one game behind.
The Red Sox trailed 3-0 after Tampa Bay scored three times in the fourth against Matsuzaka.
Making his second start since coming off the disabled list after an arm injury, “Dice-K” completed six innings and struck out seven while walking four.
Reliever Manny Delcarmen was then clobbered and charged with five runs without recording one out.
It was a much-needed win for the Rays who entered the contest having lost nine of their last 12 contests.
The Red Sox are trying to stay afloat while battling injuries including those to catcher Victor Martinez, and All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who are both on the disabled list.
David Ortiz picked up the slack with two hits and three RBIs including a two-run double in the eighth where Boston scored three runs.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Alastair Himmer)