ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Josh Beckett overcame early struggles to pitch six effective innings, Will Middlebrooks drove in a pair during a tiebreaking three-run fifth, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3 on Sunday.
Beckett (5-7) allowed three runs – all in the first – and eight hits. The right-hander, 5-0 over his past eight games against Tampa Bay, struck out seven and walked two in stopping a personal six-start winless streak.
Boston went ahead 6-3 during the fifth when Daniel Nava homered and Middlebrooks had a two-run single off James Shields (8-6), who has allowed double-digits hits in four consecutive starts.
Boston closer Alfredo Aceves, in a non-save situation, loaded the bases on three walks in the ninth, but retired Hideki Matsui on a high fly to right to end it.
Shields lasted just five innings, giving up six runs and 11 hits. He is 3-6 over his past 12 games.
Cody Ross made it 7-3 on a sixth-inning sacrifice fly. The Red Sox took two of three from the Rays after dropping six of seven before the All-Star break.
Adrian Gonzalez put the Red Sox up 1-0 on first-inning RBI single. Mike Aviles’ two-run homer tied it at 3 in the second.
Ben Zobrist had a run-scoring infield single that went off Beckett’s glove, and Desmond Jennings hit a two-run single during the bottom of the first.
The Red Sox return home Monday night for a four-game series against Kevin Youkilis and the Chicago White Sox. Youkilis was traded from Boston to the White Sox last month.
Valentine questioned Youkilis’ commitment to the game during a television interview early in the season and later apologized to him a day later.
“I think the comment that I made early, he made a big issue out of and I don’t think he wanted to get over it,” Valentine said.
Notes: Boston DH David Ortiz walked in his ninth consecutive game. The DH also has a 10-game hitting streak. … Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria, out since May 1 with a partially torn left hamstring, took grounders. … Boston OF Ryan Sweeney (left hamstring) didn’t play for the second straight game, but could return soon. … Valentine couldn’t confirm that LF Carl Crawford (left wrist) will rejoin the team on Monday. … Boston placed RHP Scott Atchison on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain and recalled pitcher RHP Junichi Tazawa from Triple-A Pawtucket.