ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) The Boston Red Sox have never started a season with pitching like this.
Hector Velazquez continued a riveting stretch by the rotation, working into the sixth inning and leading the Red Sox over the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 Sunday for their third win in a row.
The first four Boston starters - Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Velazquez - combined to give up two runs over 24 innings. The Red Sox, citing the Elias Sports Bureau, said it's the first time in the club's 118-year history the starters allowed one run or fewer in each of the first four regular-season games.
The defending AL East champions won three of four at Tropicana Field under new manager Alex Cora.
''Our starting pitchers did an outstanding job in this series,'' Cora said. ''For me, it's great, it's a good start. We've been playing well for a while now.''
Velazquez (1-0) allowed one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. Marcus Walden, Bobby Poyner, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly, who got three outs for his first career save, combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings of three-hit relief.
Kelly gave up two-out singles to Mallex Smith and Adeiny Hechavarria in the ninth before striking out Denard Span. Cora said closer Craig Kimbrel was not available after saving games Friday night and Saturday.
''They pitched great,'' Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts said. ''We didn't give them too much run support but they held up for us. If we can win these low-scoring games, we know we can win the high ones, too.''
Brad Miller homered for the Rays, who totaled just nine runs in the series.
''Beginning of the year, and also those are pretty good pitchers over there,'' Miller said. ''Coming right out of the gate with three Cy Young Award winners, it's no easy task.''
The Rays hit .190 (24 for 126) in the series.
Boston took a 2-1 lead in the sixth on Rafael Devers' one-out, bases-loaded RBI single off Yonny Chirinos. Tampa Bay's defense kept the Red Sox from a big inning as right fielder Carlos Gomez threw out Brock Holt, who tried to score from second on Devers' hit, and left fielder Smith made a lunging catch on J.D. Martinez.
Devers has driven in a run in six straight regular season games, dating to last year.
Miller put the Rays ahead 1-0 with a leadoff homer in the second.
Martinez tied it at 1 with his first Boston RBI, coming on a fifth-inning single off Jake Faria. Jose Alvarado (0-1) then replaced Faria after Martinez's hit and worked out of a two-on, no-out jam.
Faria allowed one run and four hits in four-plus innings.
Boston's Xander Bogaerts, who went 8 for 12 with five doubles and a homer over the first three games, was hitless in five at-bats.
Red Sox: OF Andrew Benintendi didn't start after playing three days on the artifical turf. He is hitless in 11 at-bats during the season-opening series. Benintendi entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth.
Jackie Bradley Jr. had a rare hit at Tropicana Field, getting a single in the sixth inning and later scoring the go-ahead run on Devers' hit. He went 1 for 10 in the series and is a career .158 hitter (19 for 120) at the ballpark.
This just the second time the Rays have lost at least three consecutive games when holding an opponent to three runs or fewer. The other time was a four-game stretch June 18-22, 2003, against the New York Yankees and Florida.
Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson makes his seventh career start Monday in the first of two interleague game at Miami. He went 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA in five starts last season.
Rays: With just three healthy starters - Chris Archer, Blake Snell and Faria - on the roster, manager Kevin Cash will use a second bullpen day in three days Monday when Tampa Bay travels to New York for the Yankees' home opener. RHP Austin Pruitt will start against Yankees LHP Jordan Montgomery.
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