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Boston had rare road success in Florida at the perfect time.
Clay Buchholz pitched six effective innings, Jason Bay drove in two runs and the Red Sox hurt Tampa Bay's playoff hopes with a 6-3 win over the Rays on Thursday night.
The Red Sox took 2 of 3 from the Rays - Boston's first series win at Tropicana Field since Sept. 21-23, 2007 - to extend their AL wild-card advantage over Tampa Bay to six games. Texas trails Boston by three games.
"This is a tough, tough place," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I know we've had a run lately that hasn't been very good, and I think part of that is they're good. For us to win here, you have to play good games. Now you come down here and you've got to play clean baseball or you lose."
Buchholz (4-3) allowed three runs and six hits. Bay, with 21 RBIs in his last 22 games, hit a two-run double that put the Red Sox ahead 2-0 in the first.
Evan Longoria had a run-scoring double for the Rays. The AL All-Star has 27 RBIs against the Red Sox this season. Since 1954, the most runs driven in against Boston during one season is 29, by Detroit Hall of Famer Al Kaline in 1959.
"Obviously you don't want to lose any series, let alone one like this, but truth be told it's one game," Longoria said. "Disappointing, yeah, but we're fortunate enough to be able to play tomorrow and still be in a race for the playoffs. The focus is come to the ballpark tomorrow and win that day."
The announced crowd was 20,823, several thousand under the Rays' home average of 23,992 starting the day. The three-games series drew just 57,663.
Boston took a 4-3 lead in the sixth when Mike Lowell hit a sacrifice fly. A run-scoring single by Victor Martinez and an RBI grounder from Kevin Youkilis made it 6-3 during the seventh.
Tampa Bay left-hander David Price (7-7), who had a win and save out of the bullpen when the Rays beat Boston in last year's AL championship series, gave up four runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings.
"I just wasn't very good. Period," Price said. "Didn't have command. Didn't have my stuff. I wasn't out there really mentally. When you're going out there like that, you're going to lose."
Ben Zobrist hit an RBI single and Longoria drove in a run with double to tie it at 2 in the first.
Rocco Baldelli, a member of the 2008 Rays, put Boston up 3-2 on a second-inning solo homer. Tampa Bay pulled even at 3-all on Gregg Zaun's RBI double in the fourth.
"The Rays play really well in this building, so to be able to come in here at any point and win a series is very big," Baldelli said.
Billy Wagner and Daniel Bard each worked a scoreless inning before Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 34th save.
"I had those guys come in behind me that just slammed the door," Buchholz said. "That's a good feeling."
Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton left in the fifth with a sprained left ankle. He and left fielder Carl Crawford made contact on the warning track while going after Dustin Pedroia's fly ball. Crawford caught the ball as Upton went down after taking an awkward step with his left ankle.
X-rays were negative, and Upton might miss just two or three games.
"I just rolled it," Upton said. "When I'm able to play, I'm back out there. We'll see how it goes the next couple day."
This program aired on September 4, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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