Rays catcher Rene Rivera, the ninth man in the Tampa Bay batting order and batting .118 at the time, singled down the third-base line off Anthony Varvaro, Boston’s fourth pitcher of the night, to score pinch-runner Tim Beckham. Varvaro is normally death on left-handed hitters -- he’d allowed just one hit in 11 previous at-bats this season. But two left-handed hitters, Allan Dykstra and Kevin Kiermaier, both singled off Varvaro before Rivera grounded his game-winning hit just inside the line.
The Rays took two of three from the Sox, losing a series for the first time this season. The Sox managed just three hits on Thursday.
Buch stops here: After one disastrous start (9 ER in 3.1 IP in New York) followed by an escape act (11 H, 2 ER in 6 IP versus Baltimore), Clay Buchholz pitched like he always does in the Trop, where he has given up more than two earned runs just twice in 11 career starts.
The Rays scored a run, something they didn’t do in Buchholz’s three previous starts here (one a year since 2012), on a double by Evan Longoria and a single by Logan Forsythe in the second inning. That would be Tampa Bay’s last hit off Buchholz, who struck out 10 in his six innings, the only Sox starter to go at least six [twice] in the team’s last nine games.
But the Sox, who had scored three or fewer runs in five of their last six games, found Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi to be just as confounding as Tampa Bay found Buchholz. Boston’s only run off Odorizzi also came in the second, when Pablo Sandoval doubled, took third on an infield out, and scored on Daniel Nava's sacrifice fly.
The Sox put two on with two outs in the fifth, but Rays center-fielder Kiermaier made a sprawling catch of Mookie Betts' sinking liner.
Odorizzi was lifted after issuing a two-out single to Allen Craig and a walk to Xander Bogaerts. Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in reliever Brandon Gomes; Sox manager John Farrell countered with Hanley Ramirez to hit for catcher Sandy Leon. Cash won that round; Gomes froze Ramirez with a front-door slider.
Bullpen bullets: Rays relievers, unscored upon (6 1/3 innings, 2 hits) in the first two games of this series, were at it again Thursday. Gomes ended the seventh by whiffing Ramirez, Kevin Jepsen worked a scoreless eighth, surviving his own bobble of David Ortiz's checked swing, and Brad Boxberger, who had struck out Ortiz, Ramirez and Napoli in succession in the seventh, set down the Sox in order in the ninth.
Bogaerts breaks 0-fer: With his fifth-inning single, Bogaerts broke an 0-for-14 slide.