ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Clay Buchholz picked up right where he left off, pitching five scoreless innings and leading the Boston Red Sox to a 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
Making his first start since June 8 after spending three months on the disabled list with a neck strain, Buchholz struck out six and scattered three hits against Tampa Bay, extending Boston's American League East lead to 8½ games.
The Rays lost for the 12th time in their last 16 games but, with the Orioles and Indians also losing Tuesday night, maintained a 1½-game lead for the second American League wild card spot.
Tampa Bay got a strong, gutsy outing from starter David Price, who struck out nine over eight innings on 127 pitches, a career high and the most by a Rays pitcher since Victor Zambrano threw 128 on July 8, 2004.
On his 127th and final pitch, Price blew a 94 mph fastball past shortstop Stephen Drew.
But once again, the Rays couldn't muster any offense to support their left-handed ace.
Since beginning this 4-12 skid on Aug. 25, Tampa Bay has scored only 41 runs (2.56 per game).
Buchholz was largely responsible for silencing the Rays' bats, lowering his ERA to 1.61 as he improved to a perfect 10-0 over 13 starts this season.
The Red Sox bullpen did its job when Buchholz left after five innings and 74 pitches. Lefty reliever Craig Breslow tossed two hitless innings, righty Junichi Tazawa recorded two outs in the eighth and closer Koji Uehara notched a four-out save, his 19th save, to secure Boston's 88th victory.
Price carried a perfect game into the fifth but quickly unraveled. Mike Napoli led off the inning with a double to the center-field wall that Desmond Jennings couldn't corral. Napoli came around to score on Jonny Gomes' single up the middle, putting the Red Sox on the board first.
Gomes advanced to second on Jennings' weak throw home, and Boston used two sacrifices to put up another run. Daniel Nava dropped a sacrifice bunt to get Gomes to third, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia crushed a sacrifice fly to deep center field, easily scoring Gomes and giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.
Notes: The Red Sox activated Buchholz from the 60-day disabled list before the game. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Boston designated RHP Jose De La Torre for assignment. De La Torre, 27, logged a 6.35 ERA in seven relief appearances for the Red Sox this year. ... Rays reliever Jesse Crain, acquired before the July 31 trade deadline, threw 36 pitches Tuesday afternoon, his second side session as he recovers from a right shoulder strain. The Rays will determine Crain's next step today, but he hopes to pitch this season and said he's "getting close."