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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays are running out of explanations for a skid that has them sliding out of playoff contention.
"I don't have anything brilliant to say," manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday after the Boston Red Sox rallied for a 7-5 victory that dealt another blow to his team's bid to earn a postseason berth for the fourth time in five years. "We're just not playing well and we've got to figure it out relatively quick -- not relatively quick, very quickly."
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Felix Doubront limited Tampa Bay's sputtering offense to one hit over six innings and Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, James Loney, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway drove in runs for the last-place Red Sox, who beat their AL East rivals for the second straight night.
The third-place Rays have lost four straight and dropped six games behind the division-leading New York Yankees, who were rained out Tuesday.
Five Boston pitchers held the Rays to three singles. The Rays also hurt themselves by committing three errors for the second straight night.
Maddon, however, isn't questioning the team's effort. The Rays made the playoffs as division champions in 2008 and 2010 and rallied from a big deficit in September to earn a wild-card spot on the final night of last season.
"I don't get frustrated or annoyed when the effort is good. It's more unexplainable because we normally thrive in these moments and we're playing kind of tight," the manager said.
"We're playing uptight, we're Jonesing out there a little bit. I don't understand why because I really believe we've maintained the clubhouse in the same fashion that we normally do," Maddon added. "This time of the year is the time I thought we really enjoy the most, and for whatever reason it's just not thriving or happening right now."
Doubront (11-9) settled down after a shaky third inning when he loaded the bases on three walks before yielding a two-run single to Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly. The left-hander walked five and struck out five, ending a stretch in which he went 0-5 over eight starts dating to late July.
The Red Sox, who already have been eliminated from playoff contention, scored a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth. They took the lead with an unearned run off Kyle Farnsworth (1-6) in the sixth, then tacked on three more in the seventh when Saltalamacchia had an RBI single and Lavarnway followed with a two-run double off Wade Davis.
The Rays lost for the seventh time in eight games despite four RBIs from Zobrist, who added a two-run single off Junichi Tazawa in the seventh to help Tampa Bay pull within 7-5. The runs were charged to Clayton Mortensen, who loaded the bases with two outs when he hit Carlos Pena with a pitch and walked the next two batters.
Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth for his fifth save, completing a three-hitter.
"It's frustrating," Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton said. "You really can't say much more than that."
Doubront earned his first victory since July 18, when he beat the Chicago White Sox.
The lefty walked Sean Rodriguez, Desmond Jennings and Upton to load the bases with one out in the third, then watched all of them score on Zobrist's first hit and Longoria's fly ball to left. He eventually got into a groove and retired 11 of his last 12 batters, limiting the Rays to a one-out walk in the fifth.
"He deserved to win," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He had that third inning. A couple calls that he got upset with. Three runs later he's on the verge of coming out of the game. Then he got his 11th win. I'm really happy for him. He's been trying for that one for a long time."
Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson allowed three runs and five hits in four-plus innings.
Loney singled in a run in the fourth, and the Red Sox chased Hellickson when Jose Iglesias walked and Pedro Ciriaco and Ellsbury singled to begin the fifth. Ellsbury's hit trimmed Tampa Bay's lead to 3-2 and Boston pulled even on Pedroia's sacrifice fly off Jake McGee.
Boston broke the tie on a throwing error by Rodriguez, filling in at third base for Longoria, who served as the designated hitter.
A year after finishing with a major league-low 73 errors, the Rays have 109 with 14 games remaining.
"I don't see fatigue out of the players or pitchers," Maddon said. "We're just not playing well right now."
|Pedro Ciriaco scores on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning to help the Red Sox defeat the Rays for the second straight night. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Boston Red Sox|
|Pedro Ciriaco, 3B||5||1||1||0||0||1||0||.292|
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||4||0||1||1||1||1||0||.272|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||4||0||0||1||0||1||2||.290|
|Cody Ross, RF||4||2||2||0||1||2||1||.276|
|James Loney, 1B||4||1||1||1||1||0||2||.256|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C||5||1||1||1||0||2||2||.231|
|Ryan Lavarnway, DH||3||1||2||2||1||1||1||.170|
|Scott Podsednik, LF||4||0||1||0||0||2||4||.298|
|Jose Iglesias, SS||3||1||0||0||1||2||0||.061|
|2B - Cody Ross (32, Hellickson), Ryan Lavarnway (6, Davis)|
|SF - Dustin Pedroia (5)|
|RBI - Jacoby Ellsbury (24), Dustin Pedroia (61), James Loney (39), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (56), Ryan Lavarnway 2 (9)|
|2-OUT RBI - Jarrod Saltalamacchia (22), Ryan Lavarnway 2 (4)|
|SB - Cody Ross (2, 2nd base off Davis/Gimenez)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|DP - Iglesias-Pedroia-Loney|
|Boston Red Sox|
|Felix Doubront (W,11-9)||6||1||3||3||5||5||0||5.08|
|Junichi Tazawa (H,3)||0.1||1||0||0||0||0||0||1.42|
|Craig Breslow (H,8)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2.87|
|Andrew Bailey (S,5)||1||0||0||0||1||1||0||3.09|
|HBP - Pena (by Clayton Mortensen)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Felix Doubront 101-56, Clayton Mortensen 23-10, Junichi Tazawa 11-6, Vicente Padilla 2-1, Craig Breslow 7-4, Andrew Bailey 15-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Felix Doubront 7-6, Junichi Tazawa 1-0, Craig Breslow 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Felix Doubront 24, Clayton Mortensen 5, Junichi Tazawa 2, Vicente Padilla 1, Craig Breslow 2, Andrew Bailey 4|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Desmond Jennings, LF||2||2||0||0||3||1||1||.248|
|B.J. Upton, CF||3||1||0||0||2||1||2||.249|
|Ben Zobrist, SS||4||0||2||4||0||0||1||.267|
|Evan Longoria, DH||3||0||0||1||0||0||2||.276|
|Jeff Keppinger, 1B-3B||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.317|
|Ben Francisco, RF||2||0||0||0||1||1||0||.246|
|Jose Lobaton, C||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.228|
|a- Luke Scott, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.218|
|Jose Molina, C||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.201|
|Ryan Roberts, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||2||2||.237|
|Chris Gimenez, C||2||0||0||0||0||2||0||.224|
|b- Matt Joyce, PH-RF||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||.246|
|Sean Rodriguez, 3B||1||1||0||0||1||0||0||.214|
|c- Carlos Pena, PH-1B||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||.194|
|a-hit into fielder's choice for Lobaton in the 8th|
|b-popped out for Gimenez in the 7th|
|c-hit by pitch for S. Rodriguez in the 7th|
|SF - Evan Longoria (3)|
|RBI - Ben Zobrist 4 (68), Evan Longoria (44)|
|2-OUT RBI - Ben Zobrist 2 (15)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|E - Jeremy Hellickson (1, Throwing), Sean Rodriguez 2 (18, Throwing)|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Kyle Farnsworth (L,1-6)||0.2||2||1||0||0||0||0||3.28|
|WP - Joel Peralta (5)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeremy Hellickson 94-62, Jake McGee 8-6, Kyle Farnsworth 22-17, Wade Davis 36-23, Burke Badenhop 9-8, Joel Peralta 20-11, Fernando Rodney 2-2|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeremy Hellickson 2-4, Jake McGee 1-2, Kyle Farnsworth 2-0, Wade Davis 1-1, Burke Badenhop 1-0, Fernando Rodney 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Jeremy Hellickson 20, Jake McGee 4, Kyle Farnsworth 4, Wade Davis 7, Burke Badenhop 2, Joel Peralta 4, Fernando Rodney 1|
|Attendance - 11502|
|Game Time - 4:09|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - D.J. Reyburn, First Base - Ted Barrett, Second Base - Marvin Hudson, Third Base - Tim McClelland|