ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The flaws have received most of the focus, which is what happens when you win a World Series one year and occupy last place the next.
But for a moment, consider Boston's one slice of hardball perfection. When the Red Sox take a lead into the ninth inning, they do not lose. Having Koji Uehara on their side, of course, gives them a huge advantage.
The Sox are now 37-0 in games in which they led after eight innings, after they held on to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 before the crowd of 25,221 that witnessed Tampa Bay's winning streak end at nine.
One swing from David Ortiz accounted for all of Boston's offense -- his three-run home run after a walk and infield hit gave the Sox a 3-0 lead in the third.
Rookie Allen Webster, who parachuted in to start in place of the traded Jake Peavy, made his 2014 debut a winning one, as he went 5 1/3 innings and allowed three hits, including a two-run double by Desmond Jennings in the third.
The Sox bullpen then went into shutdown mode. Edward Mujica registered two outs, Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless seventh, Junichi Tazawa overwhelmed the Rays in a powerful eighth, and Uehara finished off Tampa Bay in the ninth.
Uehara teased the Rays momentarily when Yunel Escobar led off with a single, but he struck out Sean Rodriguez, Curt Casali and Kevin Kiermaier in succession. The save was the 21st of the season for Uehara, which matched his total for the past season.
The Sox flashed some great defense, with Jackie Bradley Jr. making a spectacular leaping catch to take extra bases from Evan Longoria in the sixth and catcher Christian Vazquez gunning down Ben Zobrist on a stolen base attempt in the first.
In the past two seasons (not including postseason), Uehara has held the Rays to a .118 batting average (6-for-51) with 20 strikeouts.
The win was the first in six tries at Tropicana Field this season for the Sox, who return home Monday to face Toronto.