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Denard Span made a huge splash in his debut for his hometown team on opening day, lining a bases-loaded triple to highlight a six-run rally in the eighth inning that sent the Tampa Bay Rays over the Boston Red Sox 6-4 Thursday.
The revamped Rays, playing with a starting lineup featuring just one position player from opening day a year ago, had been shut out on one hit through the sixth by Chris Sale. Tampa Bay took advantage of four walks in the eighth to come back.
Span's triple was only Tampa Bay's third hit of the day and gave the Rays a 5-4 lead. Adeiny Hechavarria followed with an infield single off Carson Smith (0-1), providing a two-run cushion for closer Alex Colome to earn a save.
The Red Sox lost in Alex Cora's first game as a major league manager. They wasted a superb start from Sale, who showed no ill effects from being hit by a line drive in the hip in his final spring training start. The 2017 big league strikeout leader fanned nine and walked three.
Matt Barnes pitched the seventh for Boston, which let the game slip away after Joe Kelly entered in the eighth.
The Rays, who acquired Span in a December trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco, rallied with the help of all those walks, one with the bases loaded to trim their deficit to 4-2.
Boston built a 4-0 lead against Rays starter Chris Archer, with Eduardo Nunez hitting a two-run, inside-the-park homer and Rafael Devers driving in two runs with a seventh-inning double and a RBI grounder in the second.
Archer allowed four runs and six hits in six-plus innings. The two-time All-Star was in danger of falling to 2-13 lifetime against Boston before Span, who grew up in Tampa, delivered his first hit as a Ray.
The Rays traded Longoria, their most recognizable player, in December. They dealt pitcher Jake Odorizzi and outfielders Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza Jr., during spring training in salary-slashing moves. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is the only Rays player who started last year's opener.
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, on the disabled list following left knee surgery, had a streak of consecutive starts on opening day end at 11. ... LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (right knee surgery) worked four innings in a minor league spring training game.
Rays: There's no definitive timetable for RHP Nathan Eovaldi to return from arthroscopic surgery for loose bodies in his pitching elbow. He was sharp in his final spring training outing Monday, however manager Kevin Cash said the following night the pitcher noticed the first sign of a problem when he woke up with swelling in the elbow.
Red Sox: LHP David Price (6-3, 3.38 ERA in 2017) faces his former team in the second game of a four-game series. Price was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft and pitched for the Rays from 2008-2014, winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2012. He's 3-3 with a 3.91 ERA in nine appearances, including eight starts, against his old team.
Rays: LHP Blake Snell (5-7, 4.04 in 2017) looks to build on improvement he showed over his final 10 starts of last season, when he went 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA after being recalled from the minors on Aug. 8.
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