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Rapid reaction: Rays 6, Sox 2

BOSTON -- Erik Bedard did not pick up a win in Tuesday night’s portion of the day-night doubleheader against the Rays. In fact, he took the 6-2 loss, which forced the Red Sox to settle for a split of the twinbill.

So, since being acquired by the Red Sox from Seattle on July 31, the left-hander is winless in three starts for Boston.

But Tuesday night Bedard turned in a very encouraging six-inning, 102-pitch outing.

There were bright spots, such as his biting curveball, which led to six strikeouts. He also didn’t walk a batter. On the other side of the coin, he gave up seven hits, including a long solo homer over the Green Monster by rookie Desmond Jennings in the fifth.

When Bedard left, the Sox were losing, 3-2, but two of the runs charged to Bedard were unearned.

A second-inning error by third baseman Jed Lowrie, who bounced his throw home after fielding a grounder with runners at second and third and one out, led to two unearned runs in the inning.

But Lowrie also helped out Bedard, turning a grounder into a 5-4-3 triple play after leadoff singles by B.J. Upton and Casey Kotchman in the fourth.

That play helped keep Bedard in the game. And while he wasn’t overpowering or dominant -- he had only one 1-2-3 inning, the first -- he certainly pitched well enough to keep the Sox in the game in only his fourth start since leaving the disabled list because of a sprained left knee.

And that’s just what the Sox need from him down the stretch.

THE RUNNIN’ RAYS: Tampa manager Joe Maddon likes to put his baserunners in motion, putting pressure on the defense.

And the Sox defense cracked in the pivotal eighth inning, when the Rays pushed three insurance runs across the plate.

With one run already in, Ben Zobrist stole third base, Tampa’s third successful steal of third in the day-nighter. Upton, at first base, did not go on the play, so the Rays were left with runners at first and third and one out.

Upton started for second base before Franklin Morales delivered his next pitch, but was caught in a rundown when Morales and the Sox sniffed out the attempted steal. Morales threw to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and Upton got in a rundown, with shortstop Mike Aviles chasing Upton back to first.

As that was unfolding, Zobrist started for the plate from third. He was caught halfway in the basepaths when Aviles turned and saw him.

But Aviles made two mistakes. He didn’t run right at Zobrist, which would have forced him to make a baserunning decision, go one way or the other, making it easier to tag him out. And then Aviles compunded his mistake by throwing behind Zobrist, to third base.

As soon as the ball was headed to third, Zobrist broke hard for home and slid in safely as Lowrie’s quick, off-balance throw bounced in the dirt at the plate as Zobrist arrived. The play was scored a double steal for Upton and Zobrist.

Aviles' fundamental mistake, though not charged as an error on the scoreboard, cost the Sox that run and another, when Casey Kotchman’s single brought home Upton, making it 6-2.

TEK’S TIE-BREAKER: The home run Jason Varitek hammered to right field in the third inning was his eighth round-tripper of the year. It also was the 508th extra-base hit of his Red Sox career, which moved him past Nomar Garciaparra and into eighth place on Boston’s all-time list.

“FOUL” HITTERS: Bedard had difficulty firing two-strike pitches past the Rays in the second inning. Four Tampa hitters fouled off a total of 12 two-strike pitches. Robinson Chirinos spoiled six before a weary Bedard finally got him to wave and miss at an 80-m.p.h. curveball for an inning-ending strikeout. The pesky Rays, plus an error by Lowrie, inflated Bedard’s pitch total to a whopping 37 in the inning and 47 for the first two innings.

QUICK TURNAROUND: The Red Sox and Rays will complete their whirlwind, three-game, two-day 36-hour series Wednesday afternoon at 1:35 with Boston’s John Lackey (11-8, 6.13) opposing Tampa Bay ace left-hander David Price (10-10, 3.76).