James Shields scattered five hits over 6 1-3 innings and B.J. Upton and Gabe Gross homered last night, helping the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 to open a 1 1/2-game lead in the division.
The Rays (50-32), surprising owners of the best record in baseball, have won six of seven and shrugged off a six-game losing streak to the Red Sox. It was the first meeting between the teams since their June 5 benches-clearing brawl at Fenway Park that led to the suspensions of eight players, including Shields (6-5).
Both managers said beforehand that they didn't anticipate any carry-over from the melee that ensued after Shields hit Coco Crisp in the leg with a pitch during the second inning of a 7-1 Tampa Bay loss.
This time, the Rays' young right-hander stuck to pitching and limited Boston to two runs before Tampa Bay's bullpen barely held on, giving the Red Sox their first three-game losing streak in more than a month.
Grant Balfour bailed the Rays out of a jam in the seventh, and J.P. Howell got the final out of the ninth after Boston scored twice on Brandon Moss' RBI double and Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly off Troy Percival trim the Red Sox deficit to one run.
Percival limped off the mound after appearing to tweak a sore hamstring backing up the plate on Varitek's sacrifice fly. Percival had an anaimated argument with Rays manager Joe Maddon before leaving.
Howell earned his second save in three opportunities when Julio Lugo lined out to shortstop.
J.D. Drew hit his 16th homer for Boston, trimming Shields' lead to 4-2 in the sixth. It gave him 12 homers in June, third-most by a player in Red Sox history behind Jackie Jensen (14 in 1958) and Ted Williams (13, 1950).
Mike Lowell drove in Boston's first run with a fourth-inning single off Shields, who walked one and struck out five.
The Rays scored four runs off Justin Masterson (4-2), three of them following two-out walks. Upton homered on the right-hander's first pitch of the game, and Gross added a two-run shot after the Boston starter walked Dioner Navarro in the fourth.
A two-out walk to Wily Aybar also proved costly when Carlos Pena followed with a RBI double to make it 4-1 in the fifth.
Shields departed after giving up a leadoff single to Lowell and retiring Kevin Youkilis on a soft liner to shortstop in the seventh. Trever Miller walked Moss before Balfour escaped the jam by getting Varitek to foul out to the catcher and Lugo to hit a grounder back to the mound.
Boston played without Crisp, who will miss the entire series while finishing his five-game suspension. Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura served the last game of his three-game ban and should return to the lineup tonight.
This program aired on July 1, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.