|Tampa Bay (65-56) «||0||2||0||0||1||0||0||3||0||6||12||0|
BOSTON -- A little misfortune wasn't enough to discourage the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays held Boston to only three hits in the opening game of a doubleheader and still lost 3-1.
Tampa Bay hit into a triple play in the nightcap, but that only stalled the Rays briefly as they clinched a split with a 6-2 victory on Tuesday night.
|More on Rays at Red Sox|
"I love the fact that our team loses a very difficult game in the first game but comes back and plays even better in the nightcap," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's who we are. That's what I appreciate about our players. We're never out of it. Nobody believes we're out of this. Everybody believes we're in this thing right now."
The Rays finished the day right where they started it -- nine games behind the Red Sox. That's better than losing ground with September coming quickly.
The three-game series will wrap up Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park, where Tampa Bay is certain to have a fresh bullpen. James Shields pitched a complete game in the opener, then Jeff Niemann went the distance in the second game, striking out 10 and holding the Red Sox to only three hits.
The Red Sox couldn't overcome two unearned runs in the second inning of the nightcap. Boston also couldn't capitalize on its first triple play since 1994.
Niemann (8-4) pitched his first complete game of the season and won his seventh consecutive decision.
"We definitely have the pieces in this clubhouse. We just have to go out there and keep fighting and keep playing," Niemann said. "We have a lot of games left in the division and there's still hope left in here."
Tampa Bay won for the sixth time in eight games and avoided falling any further behind in the American League East.
Rookie Desmond Jennings, who robbed Dustin Pedroia of an extra-base by backing into the left-field scoreboard to make a catch in the first, hit a solo homer off of Erik Bedard (4-8) to put Tampa up 3-1 in the fifth Tuesday night. The ball cleared the famed Green Monster and was out of the ballpark altogether.
Tampa Bay added three in the eighth, including Ben Zobrist's run during a botched rundown that ended up being a double-steal for the Rays. Casey Kotchman followed with a hit that drove in B.J. Upton, who had advanced to second during rundown.
"It's a young group but it's a very professional group that handles adversity well and that's what I really appreciate about our team," Maddon said.
Varitek and Ellsbury were the only Boston players who could solve Niemann, whose 10 strikeouts were one off his career high, set July 29 at Seattle.
"He's got a really good angle. He's a big, tall kid, throws the ball downhill," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "A lot of swings and misses. Maybe there was one walk, so he threw a lot of strikes. He angles that fastball."
Tampa Bay had a great chance to blow the game open earlier with runners at first and second with nobody out, but Sean Rodriguez had the misfortune of hitting into the second triple play in the majors in as many nights.
Upton and Kotchman started the top of the fourth inning with singles off Bedard, who got out of the jam when Sean Rodriguez hit a hard grounder to third. Jed Lowrie fielded it cleanly, stepped on the base and fired it to Pedroia, who got the ball off quickly to Adrian Gonzalez at first and beat Rodriguez to the bag.
"It was hit in the perfect spot," Maddon said. "The imperfect storm for us and perfect for them."
The Milwaukee Brewers also turned one Monday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
According to STATS LLC, the last time there were triple plays on successive days was May 22-23, 1981. On the 22nd, the Mariners converted a triple play against the Rangers. The next day, the Cleveland Indians converted a triple play against the Yankees.
Bedard had thrown 46 pitches by the time he got out of the second inning. Ben Zobrist led it off with a bunt single, Upton singled to right and Casey Kotchman hit into a fielder's choice that allowed Zobrist to score on a bad throw to home by Lowrie.
The throw got behind Varitek and Kotchman made it to second base. Matt Joyce followed with another fielder's choice that scored Upton.
|Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon thanks Jeff Niemann for sparing the Rays bullpen with a complete-game victory. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Desmond Jennings, LF||5||1||2||1||0||1||1||.337|
|Johnny Damon, DH||5||0||2||0||0||1||1||.262|
|Evan Longoria, 3B||5||1||0||0||0||1||3||.229|
|Ben Zobrist, 2B||4||2||3||0||0||0||1||.281|
|B.J. Upton, CF||4||2||3||1||0||1||1||.228|
|Casey Kotchman, 1B||4||0||2||1||0||0||1||.334|
|Sean Rodriguez, SS||3||0||0||0||0||1||3||.209|
|Matt Joyce, RF||4||0||0||1||0||1||2||.278|
|Robinson Chirinos, C||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.218|
|2B - Johnny Damon (20, Wheeler)|
|HR - Desmond Jennings (5, Bedard)|
|RBI - Desmond Jennings (14), B.J. Upton (57), Casey Kotchman (40), Matt Joyce (54)|
|2-OUT RBI - Desmond Jennings (3)|
|SB - Ben Zobrist 2 (14, 3rd base off Morales/Varitek, off Morales/Varitek), B.J. Upton (24, 2nd base off Morales/Varitek)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Jeff Niemann (W,8-4)||9||3||2||2||1||10||2||3.29|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Niemann 114-81|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Niemann 12-5|
|Batters Faced - Jeff Niemann 31|
|Boston Red Sox|
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||4||1||1||1||0||2||0||.313|
|Jed Lowrie, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||.260|
|Adrian Gonzalez, 1B||3||0||0||0||1||0||1||.348|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.305|
|Josh Reddick, RF||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||.308|
|Carl Crawford, DH||3||0||0||0||0||3||0||.251|
|Mike Aviles, SS||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.236|
|Jason Varitek, C||3||1||1||1||0||2||0||.226|
|Darnell McDonald, LF||3||0||0||0||0||2||0||.170|
|HR - Jacoby Ellsbury (22, Niemann), Jason Varitek (8, Niemann)|
|RBI - Jacoby Ellsbury (78), Jason Varitek (24)|
|Team LOB - 2|
|E - Jed Lowrie (13, Throwing)|
|Boston Red Sox|
|Erik Bedard (L,4-8)||6||7||3||1||0||6||1||3.44|
|HBP - S. Rodriguez (by Matt Albers)|
|WP - Franklin Morales (2)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Erik Bedard 102-72, Matt Albers 30-21, Franklin Morales 14-9, Dan Wheeler 12-9|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Erik Bedard 6-5, Matt Albers 2-2, Franklin Morales 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Erik Bedard 24, Matt Albers 8, Franklin Morales 3, Dan Wheeler 4|
|Attendance - 38278|
|Game Time - 3:02|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Bob Davidson, First Base - Hunter Wendelstedt, Second Base - Brian Knight, Third Base - Chris Conroy|